Wild Animals (Circuses)

Part of Backbench Business — [29th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 5:26 pm on 23rd June 2011.

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Photo of Simon Hart Simon Hart Conservative, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire 5:26 pm, 23rd June 2011

I am not a fan of wild animals in circuses, I would not take my children to see them or go myself and I think that the quicker we can move to a situation in which they do not exist the better. I do not even like dancing dogs on Britain’s Got Talent very much—I think it is demeaning for the owner and the dog—so I strongly sympathise with many of the arguments that have been put forward this afternoon. However, what I like even less is taking a populist route because it seems to be the easy one against, sometimes, principle and evidence. We are charged, whether we like it or not, with taking a responsible approach to these things, which is sometimes difficult in the face of overwhelming and well-targeted pressure on us as MPs. It seems to me that we are making this more difficult for ourselves by confusing an argument about ethics and morality with one about legal enforceability. This has been complicated by the haunting image of possible challenges in the European Court.

However, let me curtail my contribution. Regulation can work. I simply do not buy the argument that it would somehow open up a Pandora’s box. If we are sensible about regulation, not only can we improve animal welfare standards and move to a situation in which animals in circuses are a thing of the past, but we can do it without putting the taxpayer at risk of having to fork out for a lengthy, time-consuming and very expensive EU challenge. We can do it in reasonably quick time and without the need for primary legislation. The Government were right about this 10 days ago when the Minister spoke in Westminster Hall and nothing has changed in the intervening 10 days. It seems to me that if he is genuine to his word, as I am sure he is, we can achieve everything that everybody in the House wants without all the nonsense, cost and threat to the taxpayer that we have been talking about. I shall be voting against the motion tonight and commending the Government’s approach.