MPs unanimously agree to support a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses
After a highly-charged debate in Parliament last Thursday, MPs of all parties voted in an astonishing show of unity to ban wild animals in circuses, in defiance of the Government’s proposals to introduce a licensing and regulation system.
Tessa attended the debate and has been in favour of the ban for many years. She said “I find it hard to believe that, in this day and age, wild animals are still exploited in the name of so called ‘entertainment’.”
Virginia McKenna, Founder and Trustee of The Born Free Foundation, (named after ‘Born Free’ the film featuring Virginia, her late husband Bill Travers and Elsa the lion) an animal rights campaigner for many years, was present in the Gallery overlooking the House of Commons for the debate. She said “I am astounded and delighted by the strength of feeling among MPs on this issue. Something that came through very strongly is that MPs took notice of the letters and emails received from their constituents. While the battle is not yet fully won, this is a significant step forward”.
The debate was called for by MPs from all three parties in support of a ban but was initially opposed by the Defra Minister on behalf of the Government. However, in an astonishing change of direction near the end of the debate, a free vote was announced, allowing Conservative MPs to vote independently according to their conscience, rather than following their Party’s position. When it came to the vote, no-one opposed the motion for a ban and it was carried unanimously.
As the debate was initiated by backbench MPs, the outcome is not binding on the Government, but the Defra Minister acknowledged that the Government would have to consider its position in the light of the MPs opinions.
In a recent public consultation, 94.5% of respondents expressed the view that the use of wild animals in circuses should come to an immediate end. This matter has been raised in Parliament many times over more than a decade.
Tessa commented “After my election last year, I wrote to the Minister responsible and he replied suggesting I await his ‘Autumn’ Statement on the matter of wild animals in circuses. I was disappointed to find that this didn’t materialize, and was deferred to a date ‘before Christmas’ and then further postponed to become a ‘Spring’ Statement. As of last week, there was still no Statement. This debate was long overdue, and I am glad that Defra knows how strongly I and others feel – and will finally ban the use of wild animals in circuses.”
28th June 2011