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!