A number of concerned constituents have written in about the use of wild animals in circuses. Labour has repeatedly called for the government to introduce a ban and have pointed out that 'this is a reform backed by the vast majority of the British people and already supported in a vote of the House of Commons'. Barry sets out his opinion below:
I am aware that Animal Defenders International has recently released video footage of animals in use at Peter Jolly's Circus and is calling on the Government to bring in a ban. I also appreciate that other groups including the RSPCA, the Born Free Foundation and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals UK support a ban. I agree that circuses are no place for wild animals and I believe this is a view shared not only by many animal welfare organisations but also the vast majority of British people. My Shadow Frontbench colleagues have long called for a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
The last Labour Government had plans back in 2010 to implement a ban and I share your frustration that the Coalition Government failed to legislate on this during the last Parliament. This is despite the House of Commons backing a ban and the Prime Minister stating that a ban would be introduced.
The Coalition Government published a draft Wild Animals in Circuses Bill in 2013 but failed to find parliamentary time for this Bill, or for a Private Members' Bill that was introduced by my parliamentary colleague Jim Fitzpatrick MP to ban the use of wild animals in circuses.
The current Government stated recently that it is committed to legislating against the use of wild animals in circuses as soon as parliamentary time allows. However, the Government failed to include legislation on this in the Queen's Speech on 18 May 2016, just as it did on 27 May 2015, despite the fact the Conservative election manifesto included a commitment to implement a ban. I believe there is plenty of time to introduce legislation now and am concerned the Government is again failing to act.
As you may be aware, another Private Members' Bill, the Wild Animals in Circuses (Prohibition) Bill was introduced in February 2016 and was due to have its second reading debate on 4 March 2016. However, it was objected to by a Government backbench MP, despite it being a manifesto commitment. The Bill was relisted for 11 March, but the motion was not moved and so the Bill made no further progress before the end of the 2015-16 Parliamentary session. It is a shame that this Bill was only necessary because of the Government's continued failure to act.
I agree that an outright ban is long overdue and the 2015 Labour manifesto included a commitment to ban wild animals in circuses. I believe that the current, alternative approach of licensing is ineffective and outdated and that the Government should finally deliver its promise by introducing a ban. My Shadow Frontbench colleagues are pressing the Government to confirm when it will bring forward proposals for a ban.