The United Kingdom has finally banned circuses from using wild animals in their shows. Over 13,500 Care2 members urged them to do so.
Many people thought the government would take this step long ago. In June 2011 Members of Parliament voted in force for a ban, but government ministers sat on their hands.
Though the ministers have finally endorsed the ban, they have postdated their check to suffering circus animals until December 1, 2015. The agriculture minister explained the almost three-year delay as a “grace period” to give “operators of travelling circuses a reasonable period of time to adapt their businesses and organize suitable care arrangements for their wild animals.”
Until then, regulations have been adopted requiring circuses to improve conditions for the animals.
The ban defines wild animals as those not normally domesticated in Great Britain. That leaves species like horses, dogs, and cats unprotected. Don’t they deserve safety and compassion as much as any other animal?
I suspect that it wasn’t just the well-being of circus animals that gave the final push to the government to (one of these days) emancipate them. Based on the ban’s limitation to animals not normally domesticated locally, it seems that the law’s effects are meant to be felt outside of Great Britain even more than inside of it. This law looks like a swipe at the global wildlife poaching industry/cartels.
It may be an island far from the homelands of tigers, elephants and rhinos, but Britain is no stranger to fighting against poachers. Right now Kent wild animal parks are working to protect their black rhinos after the discovery of a plan to poach them.
But if the pipeline of stolen wildlife usually ends in the U.K., it doesn’t begin there. After all, where do all those animals in circuses come from?
When Care2 Causes asked that question about elephants in Chinese zoos, we found that criminals were kidnapping young elephants from a park in Zimbabwe and selling them to the zoos, which paid top dollar. The criminals — turns out they were government officials of Zimbabwe.
Not that British government ministers were concerned only with conservation of wild animals in poor countries — preventing animal suffering was certainly a consideration. They were no doubt moved by the local story of Annie, an elephant who endured shocking abuse at a British circus. (She originally came from Sri Lanka.)
Circuses prefer younger animals because they are easier to train. That makes circuses the perfect buyers for elephants orphaned when poachers kill their herds for their ivory. Those killings will no doubt continue after the British wild animal ban takes effect. But other species of wild animals don’t have body parts with the high economic value of elephant tusks. With shrinking demand for wild babies, poachers will have little incentive to kill wild adults.
There is a chance that Great Britain’s ban on wild animals in traveling circuses will not only prevent a great deal of animal cruelty in Britain, it will also prevent animals from being murdered or kidnapped from their homes in Africa and Asia.
Photo credit: Photodisc