Wild Animals (Circuses)

Part of Backbench Business — [29th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 4:27 pm on 23rd June 2011.

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Photo of Matthew Offord Matthew Offord Conservative, Hendon 4:27 pm, 23rd June 2011

I suggest, as others have already urged, that we take a lead on the matter. As I have said, I have had some experience with the Human Rights Act this week, but when people use it they find that many in officialdom bow down and decide that, suddenly, it is a very important issue and that those people will get away with what they are trying to achieve.

In summary, case law from the European Court of Human Rights indicates that a ban would be within the “margin of appreciation” afforded to the United Kingdom. If a ban is proposed because it is considered cruel or ethically wrong in itself to make wild animals perform in circuses in the United Kingdom, as opposed to a ban being proposed because welfare standards cannot be guaranteed, then a ban is the only measure that will achieve that public interest aim and is therefore automatically proportionate.

Accordingly, a ban will not breach the European convention on human rights, and as a ban is only a control on the use of wild animals in circuses and therefore does not deprive the owner of the animal itself or of their ability to use it for commercial purposes, there is a strong presumption against compensation being awarded to persons who suffer any loss as a result of the ban. If the Government decide to implement a ban, it will not be as revolutionary as we have heard, given the 200 local authorities and the other countries that have been mentioned.

I do not believe that animals should be subjected to the conditions of circus life. Regular transport, cramped and bare temporary housing, forced training and performance, loud noises and crowds of people are all typical and often unavoidable realities for such animals. Therefore, unless the Government give us a time frame for a ban on animals in circuses, I will vote for the motion.