Wild Animals (Circuses)

Part of Backbench Business — [29th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 4:18 pm on 23rd June 2011.

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Photo of Jim Dowd Jim Dowd Labour, Lewisham West and Penge 4:18 pm, 23rd June 2011

I agree strongly with my hon. Friend. When we speak to those involved with zoos and aquariums, it is clear that they are looking carefully at the kind of animals that they will and will not exhibit. Large mammals and large carnivores are very much at the top of their considerations.

As just about every Member knows, animal welfare is one of the most persistent issues raised with us by our constituents over time. From the 19 years that I have been in the House, I have a database running into many thousands of people who have raised various issues with me. People feel very strongly about these issues, and rightly so. It is the hallmark of a civilised nation that it has the highest possible animal welfare standards, and I still believe this to be a civilised nation. There is a maxim that suggests that the hottest corner of hell is reserved for those who are cruel to children and animals, and in that regard, despite being a life-long atheist, I hope that there is a hell.

Constituents raise concerns with us because they care about them. For the hon. Member for Romford—I do not want to concentrate on his contribution, but it really was quite extraordinary—to describe the entire pantheon of animal welfare organisations, many of which have royal charters and have been around for decades, if not centuries, as part of some kind of trendy conspiracy invented simply to please Guardian readers is ludicrous.

I accept that the Minister is in a difficult situation, and he has made his personal opinion clear. What I cannot understand—the hon. Member for The Wrekin alluded to this—is why the Government have handled such a relatively straightforward issue in this fashion. The idea of No. 10 getting personally involved in such as issue shows a curious lack of proportion. It also appears curious when tested against the idea that the Government are now listening and that listening is a sign of strength.