The Labour Party has a proud tradition championing the protection and welfare of animals. We introduced the historic Animal Welfare Act in 2006 and more recently in 2010 we took the decision to pursue a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
However this intention was not shared by incoming the Tory-led Government. Instead David Cameron decided in May 2011 to introduce a licensing system, rather than a ban.
This Government prescribed that any circus in England that wished to have wild animals in circuses such as lions, tigers and elephants performing would need to be able to demonstrate that they meet high animal welfare standards for each animal before they can be granted a license to keep these animals.
This is the wrong and outdated approach. No travelling circus could ever provide a suitable environment or meet the particular needs of wild animals such as elephants or lions.
We cannot continue to justify keeping captive wild animals which are endangered or threatened purely for our own entertainment.
David Cameron has repeatedly stated that he is sympathetic to a ban when ‘Parliamentary time allows’. Last year in April his Government even published a draft Bill prohibiting the use of wild animals in circuses. So I am appalled at a time where we have very little legislation that this Bill wasn’t included in this year’s Queen Speech.
On 3rd September, Jim Fitzpatrick MP presented an important Ten Minute Rule Bill in the House of Commons calling on the Government to introduce the necessary legislation to end the practice.
The Bill fell without Government support. I hope you will join me in writing to Ministers to ask them to introduce a Government Bill to stop this injustice once and for all.