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Monday, 2 September, 2002, 12:01 GMT 13:01 UK
Bid to ban Big Top animals
A lion
The use of animals in circuses is cruel, say campaigners

The use of animals in circuses should be outlawed from the UK, say campaigners who are lobbying for a ban to be included in a future Animal Welfare Bill.

Environment Minister Elliott Morley has pledged to reform "outdated" animal cruelty laws, with a 16-week consultation on the matter recently completed.

Animal Defenders, the welfare group that exposed circus owner Mary Chipperfield's cruelty to an 18-month-old chimpanzee, has welcomed the government's plans, but says they are long overdue.


With the best will in the world, circuses do not have the facilities to keep the animals in the kind of environment that could be considered anywhere acceptable

Jan Creamer
However, director Jan Creamer believes it is the opportunity the group has been looking for since its inception in 1990, to get the use of animals in circuses outlawed from the UK.

Proposals for the bill so far include preventing young children from buying pets and a ban on docking dog's tails.

But the pressure group believes it has enough evidence against animal circus performances to secure the necessary legislation for a nationwide ban.

'Ugliest Show on Earth'

"If we want to get a ban on animal circuses, this is the bill we have to go for," said Ms Creamer.

"We are taking the view that there is a potential opening there, but there is a lot of lobbying to do until it is banned."

But a spokeswoman for Bobby Roberts Super Circus, which features elephants and horses in its acts, said it would be a shame if animals were banned from circuses.

"We are very proud of our circus animals," she said.

Since 1995 Animal Defenders has gone undercover and has witnessed performing animals being beaten with metal bars and spikes, intimidated, poked hard and whipped.

Elliot Morley
Elliot Morley says animal cruelty laws will be toughened
The investigation resulted in the launch of the Ugliest Show On Earth campaign video, to highlight cruelty in circuses.

It said it had found that few animals have the lineage, or pure ancestry, that allows them to be taken on by serious conservation projects.

Most have mixed with humans and many are the result of animals put into a cage to breed, resulting in freaks, like ligers - lions and tigers bred together.

Field officers from Animal Defenders have travelled across the country following circuses, taking more than 400 hours of video of alleged ill-treatment.

Animal Defenders hopes to get public support for a ban on animal circuses. About 11 currently tour the UK.

'Crude entertainment'

The group has distributed thousands of postcards for members to send Environment Minister Elliot Morley to urge him to include a ban in a future Animal Welfare Bill.

The bill would pull together disparate laws, including the 1911 Protection of Animals Act, into one piece of legislation.

Jan Creamer, a diminutive woman whose whole life has been devoted to animals since she was handed a campaign leaflet in the 1970s, says there is no place in a caring society for "unsophisticated and cruel" animal circuses.

Jan Creamer
Creamer: The government will have a cause for 'great shame' if it does not ban animal circuses
"The performances at animal circuses are quite crude," she said.

"The whole point of a circus is to draw this illusion of glitz and glamour and make it look like the animals are enjoying themselves.

"When they grimace, we are told they are laughing. As soon as people realise what this does to the animals, it is not something they want to see again.

"With the best will in the world, circuses do not have the facilities to keep the animals in the kind of environment that could be considered anywhere acceptable."

Bans achieved

Ms Creamer stressed: "This Labour government came in to office with a commitment to animals and environmental issues.

"Since we have released our video (the Ugliest Show on Earth), bans have been achieved in all parts of the world, including South America, Singapore, parts of India, Columbia and Costa Rica.

"I think the government will have a cause for great shame if it doesn't include a ban on animal circuses in this bill," added Ms Creamer.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said officials were still considering responses to a 16-week consultation, which ended in April, on future animal welfare legislation.

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02 Sep 02 | Politics
30 Apr 02 | Politics
29 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
31 Mar 99 | Politics
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