More than 50 British lawmakers from all the major parties voted unanimously for a complete ban on the use of wild animals in British circuses. The highly charged debate Thursday evening defied the Prime Minister’s directive and left the government with little choice, except to move forward with freeing lions and tigers from circuses.
The historic vote went against Prime Minister David Cameron’s government that insists imposing restrictions on the use of animals would go against European laws and prompt legal action.
Currently there are 40 wild animals used in the three circuses that tour Britain.
Jan Creamer, Chief Executive of Animal Defenders International to The Independent, “Politicians have now sent a clear instruction to the Government and they should now proceed with a ban. This debate and vote has exposed the Government and demonstrated just how out of touch they have been with their peers, the public and animal welfare groups.”
Last month ADI released the results of an online poll that showed 72% of the public backed the ban. Last year another survey by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs found that 94.5% of the public supported a ban.
During the debate retired Col. Bob Stewart, a former army officer and Conservative legislator shared a compassionate story about an abandoned circus bear he found while he commanded United Nations forces in Bosnia.
He said in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, “I found a bear in a cage in no man’s land. He had been left there for four weeks without water, he was entirely miserable (and) wouldn’t even be coaxed out of his cage by honey,” Stewart said.
Stewart said soldiers were eventually able to move the bear to Croatia, and that the animal was later moved to the Netherlands.
“He’s now in Amsterdam Zoo and full of life. I fully support the idea of banning animals in cages,” Stewart said.
Thursday’s vote doesn’t force the government to actually implement a ban. The motion was to “direct” the Government to introduce a ban by July 1. The Animal Welfare minister, Jim Paice told the House of Commons that if their debate led to the approval of the motion, the government would respect the decision.
The RSPCA said: “This is a win for democracy as well as animal welfare.” It hoped the Government would quickly and formally announce a ban.
ADI has been actively working toward a circus ban and exposed abuse to Anne, an elephant used in Bobby Roberts’ Super Circus earlier this year. Anne has been moved to a sanctuary.
Editor’s note: A big thank you to everyone who signed the activist petition to end the use of animals in UK circuses. The petition received over 3,000 signatures. Let’s hope other countries follow in the UK’s footsteps and end animal abuse in circuses.
Photo courtesy of Animal Defenders International