defends the circus
The circus industry’s hopes that the government has changed its mind about banning wild animals from circuses have been boosted by Christopher Chope, the Conservative MP for Christchurch, stating that the current licensing scheme rendered a ban unnecessary.
Chope was speaking in the Commons on Wednesday 10 February as fellow Conservative MP Will Quince attempted to use the Ten Minute Rule to independently introduce his Wild Animals in Circuses (Prohibition) Bill, in an attempt to hasten a ban promised by his party in 2012.
As on previous occasions in 2014, when he blocked repeated attempts by Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick to introduce the same legislation, Chope insisted a ban must be brought forward by the Government rather than via a backbench MP. However, he went further this time to introduce the idea that a ban isn’t necessary at all, thanks to the licensing regime already in place to protect the welfare of animals in the big top.
“I think it’s not surprising that as a Conservative I should regard it as controversial that we in this House should be thinking about introducing a total prohibition on what is currently a perfectly lawful activity,” said Chope. “There’s then an issue about what we define as a wild animal. For example, does (Mr Quince) think that a camel – which is in most countries of the world regarded as a domestic animal – should be banned from being able to participate in a circus?’
Chope pointed out that the existing licensing regime requires up to seven inspections per year of animals in travelling circuses compared to one per year for zoos.
“We’re now about to embark on the fourth year of that licensing regime and nobody has criticised the welfare of the animals subject to that licensing regime,” said Chope. "On the basis that good Conservatives should argue for less regulation and prohibition, and as little as is possible and reasonable, I think we have reached a compromise here where we’ve got a proper, tight welfare licensing regime without the need for a total ban or prohibition.”
Quince’s Wild Animals in Circuses (Prohibition) Bill will get a second reading on March 4.
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Did you know that attempts to ban animals from entertainment have been brewing for 100 years? Click here for the 100-year timeline in the war over animals in the circus.