Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Born Free Foundation says circus ban statement "more disappointing than ever"

28 March 2017

Categories: Homepage News, Circus Campaign News

On the 23rd March 2017, the Defra Minister, George Eustice MP, answered a parliamentary question regarding his department’s ongoing failure to introduce the ban on wild animals in circuses.

A ban was promised more than five years ago and was due to have become law over two years ago. His answer repeated Defra's long-standing position on the issue which was that they remain committed to introducing a ban “when Parliamentary time is available” - a response which has been used on numerous occasions since the promise was first made by former Minister James Paice five years previously. Despite these repeated commitments, no time has been found for to bring forward a Bill to ban travelling circuses in England, which has overwhelming public and parliamentary support.

While the delay continues to perplex and concern campaigners and members of the public, who simply want an end to the unnecessary exploitation of wild animals in the big top, another part of Mr. Eustice’s response to the question raised further concern.

He stated that “[the Government] support[s] the Bill sponsored by the Member for Torbay, the Wild Animals in Circuses (Prohibition) Bill”. At first glance, this might appear to imply that not only is there a Bill being put forward, but that the Government is playing some part in supporting that Bill’s passage through Parliament; something which would understandably give hope to the 95% of members of the public who responded to the Government’s consultation and demanded a ban in 2010.

But what Mr Eustice is in fact referring to in this statement is a Private Member’s Bill (PMB), for which Government support is likely to have no effect upon passage through Parliament. Indeed, Mr Eustice will be well aware that the Bill is very likely not to become law due to the fact that members of his own political party have “vetoed” the Bill and its predecessors numerous times over the past five years.

Unlike a Government Bill, for which time is allocated in the Parliamentary timetable, which is given ample time for debate and, importantly, which is put to a vote before proceeding, Private Member’s Bills can be “blocked” by the objection of just one MP. As such, PMBs are not considered to be effective law-making vehicles, but are most often used by backbench MPs to highlight an issue publicly. The simple truth is that they very rarely become law.

Chris Draper of the Born Free Foundation said:

“The suggestion that Government “supports” the Private Member’s Bill sponsored by the MP for Torbay is confusing, to say the least. This Bill will very likely not become law and therefore stating that there is Government support for it, while surely being aware that this support is likely to have little or no bearing on the outcome is baffling. If the Government truly supports a ban, and intends to honour the promise made to the public, Parliamentarians and, most importantly, the animals, they know what they have to do: bring forward the Government Bill which has been in draft form for the past four years”.

The Born Free Foundation has campaigned alongside other leading animal protection organisations for decades to see an end to the archaic use of wild animals in travelling circuses.

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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