Archive for July, 2015

There’s Real Time, Greenwich Mean Time – and then there’s the dreaded ‘Parliamentary Time’!

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

Will the long-awaited ban on the use of wild animals circuses in England fall victim, once more, to “lack of Parliamentary time”? In this guest blog, my friend and colleague, Liz Tyson, explains.

Back in 2012, the then Defra Minister announced that the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in England would be banned “as soon as parliamentary time allows”. The news was met with delight. Surely this popular measure, with massive, cross-party political support, would breeze through the parliamentary process.

Indeed, some senior parliamentarians predicted that it could pass through both the House of Commons and the House of Lords in a matter of days.

It is now July 2015 and wild animals still perform in the big top. Not only has the process stalled but history appears to be repeating itself. Like a scene from Groundhog Day, the current Minister repeats the mantra of his predecessor: that the ban will be introduced “as soon as parliamentary time allows”.

The current delay is certainly not for lack of trying! Since the intention to ban was announced, there have been at least 29 Parliamentary Questions on the subject; we have been told in our regular meetings with MPs that this issue continues to feature heavily in their mailbag; and we know the ongoing plight of wild animals in circuses remains of grave concern to both the public and MPs alike. Yet the ban still remains elusive and the exploitation endures.

Two years ago, trying to remain positive, Born Free, the RSPCA and our partners accepted the Government’s reassurances that their controversial licensing regime, introduced in January 2013, was ‘temporary’, designed to simply ‘fill the gap’ until it would be replaced by the ban “just as soon as parliamentary time allows”.

However, it all depends what you mean by temporary. Ominously, in a recent answer to a question posed by Louise Haigh MP, the Minister suggested that the temporary licensing regime may still be in place for years to come. He went on to say that: “a full evaluation of the licensing scheme will be carried out, if required, as part of the statutory five year review”. The regime’s five year review will be due in 2018. The government has promised that the ban would be in place long before then, no later than the end of 2015. What is going on?

After 20 years campaigning on this issue, can it really be the case that the last three years have not offered even the smallest parliamentary opportunity to do the right thing for wild animals still being used in travelling circuses?

The government may be slow to act – but our response can be immediate.

Please contact the Prime Minister, David Cameron MP, and ask him to deliver on his personal commitment to ‘get it done’, to honour the the Government’s election manifesto pledge, and to keep faith with the great majority of people across the nation. It is time to finally bring the curtain down.

The time to ban is now.”

I could not have put it better myself!

Blogging off


Preserve the Hunting Act intact

Monday, July 13th, 2015

***Good news update – Will attended a march in London this morning where the assembled protestors learned the news that the amendment had been withdrawn (for now at least). Many thanks to everyone who contacted their MPs on this issue***

Mahatma Gandhi once said that “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

When the Hunting Act was passed in 2004, I and many others rejoiced.  It was not perfect but it addressed one fundamental principle, namely that we would no longer tolerate the pursuit of animals with a pack of hounds until their violent death for ‘fun’.

Of course, the Act still permitted the killing of various species for a number of reasons (the dispatch of injured animals, ‘pest control’ and more) but, in my view,  it rightly ended the grotesque concept that we should derive pleasure from so doing.

The proposed Amendments to the Statutory Instruments which govern the implementation of the Hunting Act, due to be debated in the House of Commons on 15th July, represent the start of a fundamental erosion to the principles underpinning the Hunting Act which may well lead, once more, to the pursuit and killing of foxes and other animals by a pack of hounds for ‘sport’.

Proponents of the Amendments claim that they bring legislation in England into line with legislation in Scotland.  I do not believe this to be the case.  Having looked at both, I conclude that the proposals for England will result in even weaker legislative provisions than currently exists in Scotland.

As I write, it is unclear to me whether the short 90 minute debate which will take place this coming Wednesday, the 15th July, will conclude with a ‘free vote’ allowing MPs to vote as their conscience dictates or whether it will be ‘whipped’.  I hope and expect that the Prime Minister’s previous commitment to a free vote will still stand.

MPs of all Parties can then search their consciousness; reflect upon the overwhelming view of the urban and rural public which is fundamentally against the hunting of foxes for sport; take into account the compelling evidence provided by organisations such as the RSPCA, The League Against Cruel Sports, Team Fox ( IFAW and others, which demonstrates that, despite the introduction of the Hunting Act in 2004,  fox populations have stabilized, not exploded out of control, and that hunting with hounds does not provide an effective or acceptable way of managing foxes; and reflect further on our hard-won national reputation as a compassionate nation. Having taken all this into account, I then hope they  do the right thing.

For all these reasons and more, I hope our elected representatives reject the proposed Amendments and preserve the Hunting Act intact.

Blogging off


STOP PRESS: Scottish National Party MPs have announced that they will vote against Wednesday’s motion to amend the Hunting Act. Many thanks to all those who contacted their Scottish MPs asking them to do so; if your MP is an SNP Member you no longer need to contact them on this issue. However if your MP belongs to another Party, do please contact him or her urging them to vote against Wednesday’s motion.

Big Cat Week

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

Dear Friends of Wildlife,

This week it is all about lions!

Lions in a circus in Wales. Yes, as Scotland and England move inexorably towards a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses, Mr Chipperfield has decided to test the public mood by setting up for ten days in Powys with tigers and lions.  According to my sources, a grand total of 22 people turned up for the performance in Friday 3rd July at 6.30 pm in Welshpool.

Let’s be clear.  In the public consultation carried out by Defra, 94.5% of people who responded called for an end to this form of animal exploitation.  In a similar exercise just completed in Scotland, 98% called for it to come to an end.  The Welsh Government is inclined to end it as well, once the Westminster Parliament  passes the necessary legislation which we hope will  be by the end of the year, according to Defra Minister, George Eustice.

This really is, in my view, the last roll of the dice but what will happen to the animals?  I know that Born Free and the RSPCA have offered to assist in finding suitable homes where they could be retired with dignity – but will that be what Mr Chipperfield has in mind or will he take his act to Europe where circuses are still, sadly, common place?  Our offer is on the table.

Lions in Bulgaria. Born Free is in the process of preparing to move two former circus lions from Bulgaria to Shamwari in South Africa.  Of course, lots of planning is now underway and there are mountains of paperwork to be done but I hope that later this year two more lions will find sanctuary in Shamwari and live out the rest of their lives under the African sun.

Find out how you can help here.

And some people want to look at lions down the barrel of a gun!

A new film, Blood Lions, is out shortly and you can be amongst the first to get a glimpse of what this extraordinary documentary has uncovered here and .

It seems barely credible that the South African government permits people to shoot a lion that has been raised in captivity and that may have been released into a large enclosure just a few days before on what is, in effect, a ‘no kill, no fee’ basis.  The lion cannot escape.  Its death is guaranteed – where is the sport in that?

I hope that Blood Lions will have the same global impact as Blackfish and cause a change in policy in South Africa and a change in attitude everywhere else.  This is not the 21st Century we wish to see.

My good friend and Born Free supporter, Peter Andre, has just returned from Kenya where he has been witnessing some of our work including building a Predator Proof Boma in Amboseli National Park designed to protect local communities and their livestock from night-time predation and to eliminate the possibility of retaliation killing which are all too often the result of livestock predation.

Here’s a link to Peter’s adventure and a big thank you to the Born Free team, Land Rover, Kenya Airways and Serena Hotels who hosted him.  And a big ‘Thank you’ to Peter who has been a consistent public voice of compassion for many years.

And you have the purrrfect opportunity to help big cats (and all wildlife) by taking part in Born Free’s Big cat Nap [LINK] where you can ‘Do Nothing For Charity’ in aid of wild animals in need! Wow!

There you are – a veritable ‘pride’ of lion issues for you to get your teeth into. Off you go!

Blogging off.