‘or [Non-domestic animals in circuses]’.
Amendment No. 147, in clause 29, page 14, line 8, after ‘8’, insert
‘or [Non-domestic animals in circuses]’.
Amendment No. 148, in clause 33, page 17, line 14, after ‘8’, insert
‘or [Non-domestic animals in circuses]’.
Amendment No. 149, in clause 36, page 19, line 2, after ‘7’, insert
‘or section [Non-domestic animals in circuses](1)(a),’.
Amendment No. 150, in clause 36, page 19, line 18, at end insert—
‘(e)in the case of conviction for an offence under section [Non-domestic animals in circuses], to anything designed or adapted for use in connection with the use or keeping of wild animals for the purposes of a circus.’.
Amendment No. 151, in clause 55, page 29, line 8, after ‘11’, insert
‘or [Non-domestic animals in circuses],’.
New clause 8—Non-domestic animals in circuses—
‘(1)A person commits an offence if he uses or keeps a wild animal for the purposes of a circus.
(2)A animal is a “wild animal” for the purposes of section (1) if it is—
(a)of a species not commonly domesticated in the British Islands (whether because the species is not domesticated in the British Islands at all, because limited time has elapsed since the species was introduced to the British Islands, because it is present only in limited numbers, or otherwise),
(b)of a species commonly domesticated in the British Islands but of a breed not so domesticated (whether because the breed is not domesticated in the British Islands at all, because limited time has elapsed since the breed was introduced to the British Islands, because it is present only in limited numbers, or otherwise) or
(c)of a kind designated by regulations under subsection (3).
(3)The appropriate national authority shall by regulations designate a kind of animal for the purposes of subsection (2)(c) if it appears to that authority, on the basis of scientific evidence, that the welfare needs of animals of that kind are unlikely generally to be met if they are used or kept for the purposes of a circus.
(4)A person commits an offence if he acquires for the purposes of a circus an animal which—
(a)is not a wild animal, but
(b)is of a kind which, at the time of acquisition, is not commonly used or kept in the British Islands for the purposes of a circus, unless it is of a kind designated by regulations under subsection (5).
(5)The appropriate national authority may by regulations designate a kind of animal for the purposes of subsection (4) if it appears to that authority, on the basis of scientific evidence, that the welfare needs of animals of that kind are likely generally to be met if they are used or kept for the purposes of a circus.
(6)For the purpose of ensuring the welfare of animals to which subsection (1) applies and which have been used or kept for the purposes of a circus, the appropriate national authority may by regulations apply in relation to such animals—
(a)subsections (2) to (11) of section 16E of the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 (c. 37) (“the 1981 Act”) (obligations of zoo operator on closure of zoo); and accordingly
(b)sections 16F (power of local authority to dispose of animals), 16G (powers of entry) and 19(3D) to (3F), (4) and (5) (offences and penalties) of the 1981 Act, with such modifications as the appropriate national authority considers appropriate.
(7)In this section “circus” means a place where animals are kept or introduced wholly or mainly for the purpose of performing tricks or manoeuvres at that place.’.
New clause 9—Circus animals—
‘(1)No person shall carry on the activity of training, keeping or using an animal for the purposes of, or as part of, a circus.
(2)A person commits an offence if he contravenes subsection (1).’.
I welcome you to this afternoon’s sitting, Mrs. Humble. I shall not delay the Committee unduly on the amendments, as they are consequential on the new clauses, which deal with circus animals, a serious subject that needs debate in this Committee. Parliament has been considering it for some time—since 1998, when “The Ugliest Show on Earth”, a report compiled by Animal Defenders International, was presented. The report looked at circuses and their animals and at issues of accommodation, health, travelling, training and the physical and psychological effects on animals of a travelling circus environment.
The report, which is key to our debate on the issue, revealed that animals kept in travelling circuses demonstrate abnormal behaviour patterns. Their welfare is certainly compromised. They travel or are incarcerated for excessive periods, and undergo cruel training practices and very poor husbandry. When the report was launched, some 200 Members of Parliament signed an early-day motion welcoming it and calling for a ban on wild animals in circuses.
I want to make it clear at the outset of the debate on new clauses 8 and 9 and their consequential amendments that I am not trying to ban circuses—I do not think anybody on the Committee would wish to do so—but the Bill must address the travelling that circus animals undergo. That travelling and incarceration are what most seriously compromise their welfare, so I address that issue in the amendments.
There are a number of examples of excessive travelling. Organisations such as Animal Defenders International, the Born Free Foundation, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and others have monitored circuses over the years to reveal what the animals endure. They tend to spend much longer periods incarcerated than they spend on the road.
Animal Defenders International has compiled evidence that shows, for example, that a bear spent almost 39 hours in its container on the back of a lorry, with just a 15-minute break for a performance. Llamas were kept in small stalls, tethered to a rope measuring 1 m, for 96 per cent. of the time. An elephant, which was mentioned on Second Reading, was shut in its transport wagon for almost 18 hours, although the journey it was due to undertake was of only 25 miles and took 45 minutes. There were examples of horses being kept in transporters for more than 18 hours for that self-same journey. Nobody who keeps horses and takes them to events would consider keeping their animals in a transporter for that long. The conditions in which they travel compromise their welfare.
I will give an example that appeared in the news last week, which members of the Committee might have noticed. Although the case did not concern a British circus, it was reported in the Daily Mirror on 20 January and in The Cambrian News on 19 January. The headline in the Daily Mirror read, “Circus trip hell: hippo and rhino for Irish show endure nightmare journey before ... CRASHING”.
The animals belonged to an Italian circus named Il Florilegio, and were being transported to Ireland. The journey took them from Calais to Dover, and through England and Wales to Fishguard, but they could not get the ferry to Rosslare. The animals were therefore transported via a lengthy detour to Holyhead to take the ferry to Dublin. The crash occurred during that journey. It was discovered that the driver had no money when he ran out of petrol and that there was no food for the animals. After the crash, nobody inspected the animals—a hippo and a rhino that had been kept in close confines—to see whether they were all right.
That case demonstrates some of the difficulties. The animals were not kept by a British circus, but were being transported through Britain. Given such trade and the fact that this country is used as a transit route to get animals to Ireland, it is difficult to estimate how many animals are in the country at any one time. I hope the Minister gives some thought to that case. It is one of the most recent cases that show the poor conditions in which animals are kept while travelling—these even endured a crash.
There are many other welfare issues associated with keeping animals in travelling circuses, which are often related to the nature of travelling and the type of work that those animals are made to do. I have mentioned the excessive periods that some animals spend travelling or shut in transporters. Temporary facilities often lack environmental enrichment and space for exercise, and animals often travel while sick, injured or pregnant. Furthermore, violence and force are commonplace in the training regime of animals that are made to do complex and unnatural tricks. Also, animals are often grouped inappropriately.
There are many serious issues to be addressed, and I have further examples. The Born Free Foundation and the RSPCA produced a report that looked at Anne the circus elephant, the only elephant owned by a circus in the UK. It also looked at Ming the elderly black bear—I hope the Liberal Democrats will forgive me—and the poor conditions in which he is kept. Apparently, Ming is brought into the circus to drink a bottle of milk as part of his performance.
Although I agree with everything that the hon. Lady has said so far, I assure her that Ming is being kept in very good conditions.
It depends which Ming we are talking about. It can be argued that the conditions in which Ming the black bear is being kept are very poor. She is used at Peter Jolly’s circus and is in an unfurnished, outdoor cage, with a small trailer for an indoor enclosure, and the circus elephant has been observed chained by the front and back foot in a temporary stable tent. Those are unacceptable practices, and all that before we get to the big cats that are performing with the Great British circus. Again, the lions and tigers have been observed in very small cages in beast wagons approximately twice their body length.
The Committee has discussed the environment that the animals are kept in and providing for their needs. Although they may have been reared in captivity, these are still wild animals and they have all the instincts of wild animals. No member of the Committee or the Minister can believe that we meet welfare standards by keeping them in such enclosed spaces for such long periods and making them endure lengthy road journeys for up to eight months of the year. The standard of some of their winter quarters has also been called into question.
The number of animals in United Kingdom circuses is at an all-time low. There has been a drop from 1997 to 2005. If we take exotic species, domestic species and birds, in 1997 there were 350 animals in British travelling circuses while there are now 208. The drop is probably the result of three factors: the “Ugliest Show on Earth” investigation had an impact; foot and mouth certainly had an impact, because, as the Minister will confirm, circuses were restricted in travelling; and hon. Members may remember the Mary Chipperfield cruelty case of some years ago. Therefore, just three British circuses now have performing animals. There is no reason why the number should stay low—it could easily increase again—but, while it is at an all-time low, this is a good time to address the serious welfare and cruelty issues involved with travelling circuses.
The Minister looked a little dubious when I said that the number may rise again. Peter Jolly’s circus has recently been advertising for more wild animal acts for the 2006 season. One advertisement read:
“Wanted for forthcoming UK tour commencing March 2006. Bottle fed black bear cubs and lion and tiger cubs for new exciting wild animal big cage act. To enhance current fakir number”— that is apparently an eastern magician—
“we also require baby alligators.”
I mentioned travelling. When I read that advertisement, I wondered how on earth travelling circuses meet the welfare needs of an alligator. It must be nigh on impossible to transport it without compromising its welfare. The advertisement says:
“Peter Jolly’s Circus require for 2006 UK tour, elephant act.”
We have mentioned that the elephant is the only one owned by a British circus. It continues:
“Would consider single animal act but would prefer minimum of two animals”.
That is evidence that the three circuses left are seeking to increase the number of exotic species performing.
I believe that public opinion is on our side regarding the introduction of some form of prohibition on performing animals in circuses; this is borne out by a number of opinion polls. For example, 72 per cent. of people questioned in a Mori poll in 1999 thought that the use of wild animals in circuses was not acceptable. In a 2005 Mori poll, 80 per cent. of those questioned thought that the use of wild animals in circuses was not acceptable. In an NOP 2004 poll, 63 per cent. of people questioned wanted an end to all animals in circuses and 65 per cent. of those questioned in a 2005 poll felt the same.
I agree entirely with the hon. Lady, but we need to be clear what type of animal should be banned from a circus. The definition of a wild animal is quite wide: many types of animals could be recognised as wild, as she has outlined. We need to be more specific. Would she ban all animals, or just wild animals and exotic species? If it is the latter, how should we define the type of animal that is banned? For instance, would horses be permitted to continue in circuses?
I reassure the hon. Gentleman that I am only in the preamble to my argument and I shall address those issues later. One of the new clauses I have tabled would introduce a ban on wild animals in circuses and the other would introduce a ban on all animals in circuses. I tabled both new clauses because of concerns regarding the definition of “wild animal”. I shall go into that a little more when I reach my concluding remarks.
I mentioned that public opinion seemed to be on our side. The majority of local authorities that have been questioned about animal acts and wild animal acts in circuses do not allow them. Of those questioned, 39 per cent. have banned all animal acts, 17 per cent. have banned just wild animal acts and 21 per cent. of local authorities questioned say that they have never received a request from circuses with animals. Local authorities are already bringing in a prohibition on performing animals in circuses on council-owned land. Only about 22 per cent. of local authorities still allow that practice to continue.
The Great British Circus arrived in my constituency earlier last year. The local authority has strong views about circuses on council-owned land, but the circus was performing on private land. The local authority was doing what it could, because it felt that standards of welfare would be compromised, but because circuses can go on to private land, local authority bans can be got round.
There may be strong views on the matter in my area because, as I mentioned on Second Reading, some lions escaped from a circus in Grimsby some years ago. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Ms Smith) has already mentioned that case in Committee. We may joke about it, but it was a serious case at the time. Animals do escape, as the lions did. Some of the men in the town who were enjoying a night out drinking were quite pleased to be told by the local police that they should not leave the pubs under any circumstances because their welfare might be compromised. The excuse that people were in a lock-in because lions were wandering round Grimsby was not believed by many people. In fact, one man was seriously mauled and the police rammed the lion to get it off him.
My hon. Friend the Member for Brigg and Goole (Mr. Cawsey), now a Government Whip, was chairman of the police authority at the time and he recalls the police phoning him up on a Saturday night to say, “Mr. Cawsey, we’d just like to tell you that there are lions roaming around the centre of Grimsby.” Hon. Members will be pleased to know that my hon. Friend, who is well known for his animal welfare credentials, did not issue a shoot-to-kill policy. He did not want the lions to be hurt in any way. They were rounded up and caught, but one man was left traumatised by the mauling that he endured. I understand—my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough may confirm this—that even to this day the man is petrified by virtually every animal that he sees.
We have public opinion on our side. We know that animal welfare is compromised because of the conditions in which the animals are kept and because of the travelling, which is why I felt that I had to table the amendments. I alluded to that on Second Reading and said that I wanted to focus on the subject in some detail. The case for action has been made. In this morning’s sitting, the Minister himself said in response to questions about pet fairs that we did not wish to ban things in this Bill unless there was cruelty involved or the welfare standards could not be met. I hope that from what I have said already he will agree that standards are not being met and that there are cruel practices, so there is a case for action. The key question is how we achieve that.
I tabled a new clause that would involve a total ban—it is also backed by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew)—because of the difficulty of defining what is and is not a wild animal, a domestic animal, an exotic wild species or an exotic species. All sorts of definitions are used. In some of the discussions that I have had over the years with people who support the continuation of animals in travelling circuses, they have argued, for example, that elephants cannot technically be deemed wild animals because in India elephants are used to work for man. A similar point is put about llamas; because in south America the llama is used as a pack animal, circus people argue that they are not technically a wild species.
I understand what the hon. Lady is saying, and we all share the same sentiments and want to protect animals, but surely the Bill relates to wild animals in this country. Clearly, an elephant is a wild animal in Britain. It may not be in India, but we are not legislating for India. I am concerned that if all animals are subject to a ban—and like the hon. Lady I am strongly in favour of animal welfare—dogs, horses, budgerigars and other animals used in a perfectly harmless way at circuses would also be banned. Potentially the circus could be undermined, if things were taken to that extreme.
I accept that definitions raise certain issues. I should probably prefer the term “exotic species” to “wild animal” to get round some of the arguments of those involved in circuses and their supporters. Another argument that I often hear is that the lions or bears were bottle-fed when young and have always been around man, so they are in effect domesticated. There are problems, and I believe that we must get the definitions right if we are to protect animals and end the cruelty, suffering and compromised welfare in British travelling circuses.
That leads me to the question of horses, ponies, mules, donkeys, dogs—which the hon. Gentleman mentioned—and birds. Some people argue that we could impose a prohibition but exempt certain animals such as dogs. I have no problems with, say, a clown running around the ring being chased by a couple of dogs which are in effect that performer’s pets. Horses are another matter, because the time that they spend being transported leads me to worry about their welfare. Racehorses and ponies being taken to gymkhanas, for example, do not spend such a long time being transported, and they will return to a permanent location, whereas circus horses may travel for eight months of the year. The welfare of circus horses during travel is therefore a worry. Horses and other ungulates have also sometimes been seen tethered on very short ropes. That was mentioned on Second Reading. We do not like seeing horses tethered in a field by a roadside.
We need to do something. The amendments have been tabled to enable us to debate and explore serious issues about which animals should perform in circuses. Do we agree that elephants should continue to perform in circuses, as one circus is trying to get more? What about big cats, llamas, zebras and bears? We must consider their welfare. I do not think that many people are worried about the welfare of the dogs in British travelling circuses. They do not seem to be kept in; they run around the circus because they are in effect pets.
The possibilities are a total ban; a partial ban, with the exclusion of some species; or a good definition of what constitutes a wild animal or, as I should prefer, to get around some of the circus arguments, an exotic species. I also wonder, and I want the Minister’s officials to explore this, whether there is some way of applying or extending the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 to include travelling circuses and the winter quarters in which animals are kept.
There is certainly a case for having exactly the same standards for winter quarters as for animals in zoos. I tried to raise this point in one of our earlier sittings. For three or four months a year, a bear, tiger or lion kept in winter quarters is the same as one kept in a zoo, yet one is regulated and one is not. Winter quarters are rarely inspected; indeed, one local authority that has in its area the winter quarters of a circus cannot remember the last time that circus was inspected.
Does my hon. Friend acknowledge that that is exactly the sort of thing that can be done by regulation but is difficult to do in a Bill?
I shall keep quoting back to the Minister his earlier comment that we should not ban anything unless cruelty is demonstrated or the welfare needs of the animal cannot be met. We have made the case that there is cruelty and that the welfare of animals in travelling circuses is compromised. If there is a way of dealing with this issue in the Bill, I would like the Minister and his officials to explore how we can strengthen it to achieve the aims that I have set out today. That is why I mention the 1981 Act. Can it be extended? Can other regulations be applied or extended to cover animals travelling with circuses?
We have only to make a comparison with the rules regarding livestock. There are strict rules about how long farm animals can be transported and about the conditions in which they can be kept. We have regulations about the size of cages in which hens can be kept, and we are to phase out battery production in this country, so hens are getting more attention and will be subject to a higher welfare standard than is applied to big cats and bears kept in cages. That is not acceptable. Can those regulations be applied to circus animals? There are many avenues that we can explore to get what I am after. The duty of care on welfare standards in the Bill is not sufficient. It will not make a blind bit of difference in circuses, which are difficult to inspect because their winter quarters are rarely inspected and because they move around. The very nature of that business makes it virtually impossible to ensure the welfare of the animals. That is why it is time to act.
I hope that the Minister will go away and consider some of the issues that we have discussed. Depending on his response to the new clauses, I might want to make further contributions. I remind him that back in 1988, I think, when Animal Defenders International launched “The Ugliest Show on Earth”, he signed the early-day motion that called for a total ban on animals in circuses. Indeed, I recall that it was tabled by you, Mrs. Humble—[Interruption.] It was a long time ago, Mrs. Humble.
I support the hon. Lady’s amendment and I commend her on her speech.
The use of all wild animals in circuses should be prohibited. The use of domesticated animals in circuses should be subject to annual licensing and codes of practice, which would specifically address the position of what would then be the remaining performing animals in circuses.
I understand that under the current law there is, effectively, no meaningful regulation of circuses from an animal welfare point of view. Those who exhibit or train performing animals have to be registered under the Performing Animals (Regulation) Act 1925, but that is essentially an administrative statute that contains no welfare provisions. For example, winter quarters for circus animals have been mentioned, but those are not subject to any registration or inspection regime and there is little information available on standards of care and welfare. Indeed, RSPCA inspectors have been refused access to circus animals in winter quarters.
The use of many wild animals in circuses is already prohibited in several other countries, including Austria, Costa Rica, Israel and Singapore. A recent study by the Euro Group for Animal Welfare, looking at the legislation and controls on circus animals throughout Europe, came to the clear conclusion that a circus environment is unable to provide for the needs of wild animals. The author of that report pointed to research conducted recently, showing that circus life is completely incompatible with the needs, in particular, of elephants, brown and polar bears, primates and big cats.
Owing to the mobile nature and commercial business aims of circuses, they regularly have to transport their animals, which are housed for long periods in accommodation principally designed for travelling. There may be inadequate space for normal movement, or non-existent exercise facilities, temperature requirements, ventilation and lighting.
A 2004 survey of local authorities looked at the number of UK circuses remaining that have animal acts and found that there was a total of 10 circuses with animal acts, of which only three had wild animals—including one Asian elephant, one black bear and lions, tigers and zebras. The fact that there are so few circuses remaining in this country with wild animals performing in them suggests that the general public do not want to see those circuses.
I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman has read some of the research that reveals that audiences going to circuses without performing animals have increased significantly in recent years.
I am relieved. I should have been worried if more people were going to see circuses with performing wild animals. That confirms the point that I was trying to make, that it is not a popular activity. I would certainly not take my child to see a circus with performing wild animals.
All wild animals have evolved to express a range of wild behaviours, many of which cannot be expressed in a circus environment. Many such animals are housed in inappropriate social groups and are deprived of the ability to display their whole behavioural repertoire.
The hon. Lady made an interesting point about the extension of zoo legislation. Many species of animals used in circuses are the same as those kept in zoos. It is worth noting that there is extensive advice provided by the “Secretary of State’s Standards of Modern Zoo Practice”. However, although that may provide a minimum standard, the view of bodies, such as the RSPCA, is that even that is unlikely to be met by circuses that keep wild animals.
The Select Committee considered the issue and expressed its concern that the Government’s proposals do not go further. It criticised the Government’s logic in concluding that a ban on performing animals in circuses is not necessary. It said that DEFRA could distinguish between the use of wild animals and domesticated animals in circuses, with a view to prohibiting the former and licensing the latter. That is also my view, because the welfare needs of wild animals are obviously very different from those of domestic animals and more difficult for circuses, which are itinerant, to meet. Circuses should not be permitted to bring in new wild animals or to breed from their existing wild animal stock.
I congratulate the hon. Lady on tabling the amendment. I hope that she holds her ground and, if the Minister does not undertake to think about the issue, she will take matters further. It is my firm view and, I believe, that of most of my constituents, that the use of wild animals in circuses should be prohibited and the use of domesticated animals in circuses subject to annual licensing and codes of practice.
My hon. Friend might have noticed that I did not take part in this morning’s debate so the Committee has probably had less of me speaking, although it was one long speech.
It is not for me to shut up another Member. My hon. Friend gave a moving and erudite address. We know we have a friend on the Front Bench, as the Minister signed the early-day motion and I am sure he has not changed his mind, even though he has achieved high office. I know he will be working behind the scenes to do the decent thing.
I support new clause 9, but I urge caution because we are talking not just about circuses but about performing animals, a matter that arose in the Select Committee. We must look at the wording of the proposal because it must also include the use of animals in television, films, theatre and promotional work. Even if we decided to ban animals in circus, it would be no good if abuse was still prevalent in other uses of wild animals.
Although I said that I would not go over the same ground, I want to make the slightly different point that in the pre-legislative scrutiny of the draft Bill, the Select Committee said that we were not sure how the Government would introduce secondary legislation to define the difference between domesticated and wild animals, if that was how we could encompass what most, if not all, of us want: the end of wild animals being paraded at circuses and in front of other live audiences. The Government need to do some work on the matter because one person’s wild animal is another person’s domesticated animal.
My third point is about international circuses. We should be unanimous in the view that we should not allow animals to be brought across the seas to this country, for two simple reasons: first, there is always the threat of disease, and not just foot and mouth, bovine TB and avian influenza. I have argued for a long time that we greatly underestimate the impact of animal disease and the possibility that it can cause human disease. There should be a precautionary principle, which would be easy to enforce in this area.
Secondly, whatever controls there are on performing animals in this country and whatever our good intentions, there is always a threat that animals could be—[Interruption.] This is the room for strange noises. There is always a threat that animals could be abused by others who use methods that we would not accept, usually to train those animals. There is therefore a reason for us to take an international perspective in dealing with this issue, and I hope that it will be tackled across Europe, if not further afield, given that countries have already banned wild animals in circuses and promotional work, in particular. Those are the points that I ask my hon. Friend the Minister to clarify.
Finally, if we are to license such practices, at what height will the hurdle be set? It would be much easier to ban this practice, because the decision would then be clear-cut. From the Government’s perspective, that might not necessarily be the best way, because they feel that they can drive standards up. Furthermore, the list of different uses to which animals can be put might mean that there was still abuse in other areas, even though animals had been banned in circuses. However, I should like some clarity, and this is another issue on which the civil servants might have to beaver away so that they can work out what the licensing arrangement will look like. That will be fair to the industry, which will know that its days are numbered, while others will be absolutely clear about the standards that will apply if they continue to use animals in promotional work and they will be able today to start training and looking after those animals accordingly. If at all possible, they will be able—dare I say it?—to change the way in which they currently use their animals.
I shall ask my customary question of the Minister: is there a free vote on the Labour Benches? If he wishes to tell me, that will save me intervening on him later; if he keeps quiet, I shall reserve the right to intervene.
I do not need to run through the problems with circuses, nor do I need to discuss the other circumstances in which animals perform, which the hon. Member for Stroud quite properly mentioned. Those issues have been set out very clearly. Suffice it to say that I agree with the analysis that circuses, in particular, are incapable of providing the conditions necessary to meet the basic requirements of exotics or wild animals—however one wishes to describe them. The case for a ban on using such animals has therefore been made. My position is not dissimilar from that of the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Hollobone). It is perfectly acceptable to use animals that are used to working with humans—dogs and horses perhaps—providing that there is a licensing regime for them. That is the compromise that I would want to see. However, I find it extraordinary that animals such as black bears are still used in circuses in the 21st century. That is the case with which the Minister must deal. Although we did not know this before, we now know that he supported the early-day motions mentioned earlier. I tabled some of them, so perhaps he even supported me. I am not sure whether he did, but I look forward to him doing so when he speaks this afternoon.
The public are moving away from the use of animals in circuses and are, indeed, coming to recognise that circuses can be intensely entertaining—indeed, even more entertaining—without animals. When it comes to this country, the Russian State circus is a fantastic spectacle, and it involves no animals at all. When people see an animal in a cage, there is an understanding that that is not right. That understanding was not there 20 years ago, but it is now, and that is one reason why attendances at circuses have been dropping.
However, I must issue a warning at this stage. The Minister might be hoping that circuses will wither on the vine, but that will not necessarily happen. We thought that the wearing of fur might wither on the vine, and for some years it did. However, some fashion houses are now marketing fur again, and it is becoming more acceptable to wear it. It is not a one-way street. The Government have not intervened in the selling of fur, but they recently intervened in fur farming. Indeed, they decided to ban fur farms, which was generally popular. They did not license them; they banned them. The Government realise that an outright ban is sometimes the most appropriate way forward. Yes, clarification of the definition of animals would be needed; and, yes, it is not entirely clear how that would be arrived at—which animals are wild and which are tame, and so on. Nevertheless, it seems to be the way forward.
The hon. Member for Stroud spoke about animals coming from abroad. I entirely agree with him except for the fact that it may interfere with European Union trade rules. Those who advocate such a policy might find that it is not compatible with EU law, as we found with the attempted ban on live exports. That is another reason for banning the use of such animals in circuses. Allowing animals to be used, but only those that originated in this country or that now live here to be used in circuses would make it difficult to resist animals coming across the channel from other countries. In my view, that is a further reason for a ban. The sensible move suggested by the hon. Member for Stroud would not be enforceable under EU rules.
I understand the limitations of EU legislation, but it seems strange in this day and age that a country like Britain, which had problems with its beef, could have its beef exports banned with no recourse, but that if we wanted to take unilateral action on circus animals we would not have the power. Surely something is wrong with the EU, rather than with what Britain wants to do.
The hon. Gentleman has started on a rich vein and a very long road. I had better not go down it, except to say that one is regarded by the EU as a trade matter and the other as a matter of public health. Therein lies the difference. However, the way that the EU treated our beef was not appropriate under European law.
Lastly, I want to speak about the alternative to licensing. The Minister has been at pains throughout to state that this is an enabling Bill and that the details will follow later. He wants our agreement on the principle of licensing a number of activities. The implication is that licensing will be used to improve animal welfare. That has been the assumption throughout our consideration of the Bill. In most cases, I am sure that that will be the outcome. Indeed, I am sure that it is the Government’s intention. However, I came away from this morning’s discussion unconvinced that licensing pet fairs will improve animal welfare. Indeed, it may make matters worse, whatever the Government’s intentions.
I flag up the fact that licensing could have similar consequences. It could give a stamp of approval to an activity simply because that activity had not been banned or ruled out. If the licensing conditions are set poorly, inadequately or loosely, we could end up with a worse situation. We could end up with a pig and a poke—no pun is intended.
The hon. Member for Stroud was right to refer to the height of the hurdle. If hon. Members are not going to go for a ban on non-domesticated animals—the route that I, the hon. Member for Cleethorpes and others would prefer—we need an absolute assurance as to how high the hurdle will be, and what the Minister believes will be the consequences of putting a licensing regime in place.
Hon. Members have covered many points, so I shall be brief. We all accept that we cannot keep domestic cats in little carrying cages for days on end—we accept that cats like a little freedom, perhaps being able to use a cat flap so that they can go in and out of the house—but that is exactly what these big cats are condemned to. Tigers are being kept in caged trailers with no tiger flap to allow them to go for a little run. We do not accept that circus animals should spend all their time being locked up or tethered so that they never have the chance to run at full speed, to catch prey or to socialise in the normal way.
It has been suggested that the Bill already allows for the banning of circus animals, as there is a clause that suggests that their welfare needs must be met. My concern is that that will lead to having to argue and prove a welfare case for each species of animal, whereas including a clear ban would send a clear message. Also, if animals will be coming from other countries, or traipsing through Britain to get to Ireland or vice versa, it would be much simpler if Customs officers could simply say, “No, you don’t come in.” That would be better than having to prove that a particular species that has not already been covered is not getting its needs met on the travelling and tethering marathon that it is undergoing.
If we are not to have a separate clause on the subject, I would like assurances from the Minister that there will be a way of making sure that case after case will not be brought forward before we can prove that the welfare needs of the animals—whether they are in circuses based here or abroad—are not being met. We have to make sure that we will not need a separate case for each species.
Also, we need to take the lead in the EU on this subject. A separate clause would send out a very clear message. We could use it to lobby other EU countries to follow suit, so that the majority of the 25 EU countries introduce something similar to the provisions in Britain and Austria. For those reasons, I want the Minister to think carefully about whether it would be better to go for a clause that makes the ban absolutely clear, or to land ourselves with an awful lot of sorting out just to achieve an end that could be achieved more simply by the new clause.
May I apologise to the Committee for missing what was obviously a tour de force of an introduction to the amendments?
It seems that the universal view is that we do not like the idea of non-domestic animals in circuses. There is the issue of whether it is demeaning for the animal to perform, and, more importantly, the issue of welfare. I am slightly unsure about whether we should ban animals in circuses in the fashion suggested, but it is not that I disagree with what the hon. Member for Cleethorpes is trying to do. The issue is whether a ban in the Bill would be as flexible as we would like, because of the word “circus”. The problem is not the rest of the argument—I am happy with that—but the concept of “circus”.
The hon. Lady has given a definition of a circus, and I would not argue with it, but we all know that there are many other environments in which animals can be required to perform. I am certainly not a lawyer or parliamentary draftsman, but I am not entirely convinced that new clause 8—or indeed any definition—would deal with that satisfactorily. I am therefore more sympathetic to the idea of creating a framework of regulation that would have the effect of a ban, and I offer as evidence the system that the Conservative Government developed in the early 1980s to prevent the export of horses for slaughter. There is no ban on the export of horses for slaughter, but we created a set of regulations to do with the conditions in which they should be exported, and it had the effect of a ban; that practice now does not happen. That is a much more flexible arrangement.
I wonder—I shall be interested to hear the Minister’s response to this— whether there is a way that we could say, “If you keep animals for the purposes of performing, you have to keep them according to the following welfare standards.” We would then create a set of standards that made keeping animals for performing unviable commercially and impractical in terms of space and so on. That would be analogous to the way in which we dealt with the export of horses. I am tempted to think that that would be a more durable solution, less open to abuse and to people finding loopholes in the system, than putting a ban in the Bill.
I want to record my fundamental view, which is that trying to keep wild or non-domesticated animals in the way that the hon. Member for Cleethorpes and others described—in circus conditions, particularly the travelling conditions—is wrong. There may be a better way of dealing with things, but I place on record my support for the principle that she is trying to achieve.
We have had an excellent debate, which is defining itself in terms of whether Members believe that we need a ban—in the Bill or not—to deal with the problem of wild animals being kept in such confined conditions and being made to perform, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes pointed out, or whether we can achieve the same result by raising the standards of welfare to the point at which it becomes impossible to confine, keep and train animals to perform in circuses.
I am doubtful whether we can raise the standards to the point at which the practice of keeping animals for the purpose of performing at circuses would become unviable. Would that be effective? I would argue that if the standards can be raised to the point at which the practice would cease, why should we not produce the ban in the first place?
Is this not rather a roundabout way of dealing with the problem? Is this not a rather insidious way of dealing with the problem? To that extent I would like the Minister to reconsider.
That is an important point. Much of what we are debating in the Bill concerns moral issues about welfare and cruelty.
If we created a set of regulations which we as legislators felt were of a sufficiently high standard to enable an animal to be kept according to all the rules that we discussed earlier in Committee, and somebody said, “Yes, I will meet that standard”, then we have met the welfare issues. To say, as I think the hon. Lady is saying, that it would be impossible to make the standard high enough implies that she wants to stop using animals in a circus, not because of the welfare issues but because of other moral judgments, such as whether animals performing and so on are right. I am trying to get clarity. Are we judging this purely on animal welfare grounds, or are we making other moral judgments about the use of animals to perform?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, in which he drew attention to an important point. I think, ultimately, that every member of the Committee will have his or her own view on whether we can ever achieve a welfare standard that is good enough to justify keeping wild animals for the purpose of performing in circuses. There is a difference of opinion among the members of the Committee. That is the point that I was going to go on to make.
I agree with the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) that we ought to ask the Minister to reconsider the issues, because they are complicated. He can form an opinion and come back on Report with a considered view on whether or not raising the standard is possible, or whether we may as well introduce a ban as part of a secondary legislation package.
I absolutely agree that we should not introduce a ban in the Bill. We ought to keep the enabling status of the Bill intact, but I would like the Minister to consider the complicated issues that have been outlined during the debate.
For the record, I do not think that the standards can be raised to the extent that we could justify the keeping of animals in circuses, but that is a personal view. I would rather the experts and the Government went away and looked at the issue in more detail.
This has been a useful and informative debate, which has given me and my officials a lot of food for thought.
An important issue that came up quite late on in the debate, raised by both the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire and my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud, was that we should really be talking about performing animals in general. The issue goes much wider than just circuses. That is one of the fundamental concerns that I have with the amendments as they are here—putting a ban on wild, or all, animals in circuses into the Bill. The other sectors—audiovisual, film, TV, advertising and so forth—are growing and although there may be a disagreement on whether circuses are shrinking, that has been the case in recent years. The Government are keen to achieve what was well described by the hon.d¤Member for South-East Cambridgeshire: improvements in welfare across the board for performing animals. In a moment, I shall come to how we hope to achieve that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes made an excellent contribution. I congratulate her and all the animal welfare organisations that briefed her. She reminded me of the principle that I reminded Committee members about this morning and that should be fundamental to our thoughts: that we should think very carefully about banning an activity unless we are convinced that it is unavoidably cruel or that the welfare needs of all animals involved cannot be met. On that point, I have a problem with what my hon. Friend advocated.
We should acknowledge that most of the wild animals used in circuses are, in fact, captive bred. With all species—my hon. Friend mentioned llamas, others mentioned a camel and even an elephant—there is a debate about where we should draw the line, not only on the animal’s definition but on whether it is strictly the case that it is impossible in circus conditions to meet the welfare needs of every animal that we would normally describe as wild. I am advised that it is not possible to say that categorically. For me, that doubt is one reason—a fundamental one—to oppose the banning of wild animals.
I should like to be clear on this important point. Is the Minister saying that he can envisage circumstances in which, if licensing were introduced, the use of wild animals in circuses could continue?
We are talking about things that are some way down the track, but I am advised that it may be difficult to prove that it is impossible to meet the welfare needs of a snake, llama or zebra in good circus conditions. That is the implication of what I am saying, although in the case of most wild animals, it will not be possible.
I hear what the Minister says about performing animals, but does he accept that one of the key aspects of this debate is the travelling that those animals have to endure and the conditions in which they are kept before and after those journeys? He talks only about standards in circuses, but I have great concern about the travelling outside the performances. Will he please consider that?
I was going to come to travelling in more detail later. I resisted the temptation to intervene when my hon. Friend mentioned travelling, as I did when she mentioned winter quarters. Travelling is another classic area that is better suited to regulation. However, I shall come to the points that she and other Members made on travelling in a moment.
The fundamental point I want to get across is that I share my hon. Friend’s concerns—in some circuses, current practices do not meet acceptable welfare standards. I also accept that it is likely that the welfare needs of some, if not most, wild animals cannot be met in circus conditions. However, both those concerns are best met by regulation rather than a blanket ban.
Almost in passing, my hon. Friend the Member for Llanelli (Nia Griffith) identified the only European country so far that has, according to my advice, banned all circuses with wild animals, including all species of captive-bred wild animals. That country is Austria. That is related to the travelling and the free trade issue. I am also advised that Austria’s ban is being challenged by the European Commission because of the possible infringement of the free movement of services. That highlights not only the difficulty that a lot of countries—such as Sweden, New Zealand, Germany and others that have good, high standards of animal welfare and have passed flagship animal welfare legislation—have had in grappling with this problem, but some of the difficult areas that members of the Committee touched on, such as moving around. In the event of a ban or robust regulations, any circus that crosses UK territory will be subject to our laws, for both the welfare offence and the cruelty offence. I listened carefully to the examples given by my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes and found it hard to detect among them a practice or circumstance that we all find abhorrent which would not fall foul of the existing cruelty offence or the new welfare offence introduced by the Bill. I hope that that reassures her to some extent.
The hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire and my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud highlighted the important point that the issue is broader than circuses. The definition issue, which was also debated in Committee, makes it more difficult to put a ban in the Bill. I am sure that members of the Committee are aware of the list of countries that restrict the use of wild animals in circuses. The restrictions are either species-based or make a distinction between captive bred and wild caught, but most are limited to species. That is exactly the sort of issue that we can deal with better and more effectively in regulations than in the Bill. Given those principles, I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes will seek to withdraw the amendment.
Given the duration of my musings on the subject, I do not think that my hon. Friend the Minister has addressed all the issues that I raised and some of my questions to him—for example, applying the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 to winter quarters. I think that it would be simple to do that, and something that we could do quickly. I am concerned that the proposed date for doing anything under the enabling powers of the Bill about performing animals in circuses is 2009. That is an unduly long time to wait when we are dealing with some of the most seriously compromised animals in the country. Therefore, I ask my hon. Friend to reconsider the date.
Before I decide what I shall do with my amendments and, subsequently, the new clauses, my hon. Friend the Minister must address the issue of winter quarters and the Zoo Licensing Act . Can he bring it in more quickly than 2009? My hon. Friend did not address the transportation issue in great detail, particularly the comparisons with livestock. I heard what the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire said about the export of horses for slaughter. If my hon. Friend the Minister wishes to intervene to answer any of these questions, he is more than welcome to do so.
I am advised that the laws that govern zoos explicitly exclude circuses, but that does not mean that we should not base any regulation or licensing system of circuses’ winter quarters on the conditions enjoyed by zoo animals. I think that I am giving my hon. Friend the answer that she wants on winter quartering. The same is true of transport. It would be extremely difficult to meet the welfare standards that most, if not all, wild animals require. Again, that could be laid down in regulation.
We are looking at the timing. However, I offer one note of caution. As my hon. Friend may know, the Department has set up a performing animals working group and we are working closely with Performing Animals Welfare Standards International, which is a body that deals with the welfare standards of performing animals all over the world. We are talking about an international market, particularly when we think of Hollywood films and things like that.
I was in the process of responding to my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes about the timing of secondary legislation. We have timetabled secondary legislation in the way that we have because of the nature of the issues involved. The question of circuses is going to be particularly difficult because it is a new area; the ones that we are dealing with first are generally regulated already in some form or another.
Given, however, the strength of feeling expressed by the Committee and the points raised by my hon. Friend, I shall reflect on whether it is possible to bring forward the timing of regulations applying to circuses, bearing in mind that they might impact on other areas that hon. Members feel equally strongly about.
I described the working group earlier, and its work on a draft code for circuses is well advanced. We hope that it will be finished this year. It will help to inform any action taken under the welfare offence in advance of any future secondary legislation. I hope that those words reassure my hon. Friend and that she feels able to withdraw her amendment.
As I was saying, I welcome my hon. Friend the Minister’s commitment to seeing whether there is a way in which we can introduce the regulations governing performing animals in circuses. Similarly, I was also welcoming the fact that the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 may be reviewed to see whether it could apply to winter quarters.
I must also say to my hon. Friend that I believe that the 1981 Act could also address some of the concerns about performing animals supplied for television, film and other performances, because the facilities in which those animals are kept are similar to those in circuses. Travelling circuses are a completely different sub-set in that they are well understood, so concerns about performing animals could easily be dealt with under the Act. I would like him to reconsider the matter, which leaves us with travelling circuses to consider. Although I welcome what my hon. Friend said, I have further concerns and questions that I want to put to him before I decide what I shall do about the amendments and thus the new clauses when we discuss them at the end of the debate.
I have some questions about Performing Animals Welfare Standards International, to which he alluded earlier. My understanding is that PAWSI is an industry-based organisation, and my hon. Friend said that the codes of practice are well advanced. I have been informed by people who have attended those meetings that there has been no discussion of specific standards yet, which gives me some cause for concern. I would like him to comment on that if he wants to intervene.
I have kept quite quiet in the debate so far, but I am concerned, because I believe that the Government have had extensive discussions with the circus industry about such things as codes of conduct, so the hon. Lady is making an important point. It would be helpful not only for the Committee but for the industry as a whole to know now whether all their discussions have been a waste of time. If they have not, that may influence how the hon. Lady feels about the clause.
I understand what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but as I said in our discussions about the conditions in which animals are kept and the travelling conditions of those animals, I am worried that the people concerned are the people who are drawing up the codes of practice. Our perceptions will be very different from theirs, which leads me to another point that I made last week about lawful purpose. The circus industry could argue that there is a lawful purpose in hitting an animal with a metal pole when training it to perform tricks. I am concerned that that could be seen as a get-out.
Animal welfare organisations that have provided much evidence to Committee members, such as Animal Defenders International, the Born Free Foundation, the RSPCA and the Captive Animals Protection Society, are extremely worried that discussions have been only with the industry. They are not confident that the code of practice will address the concerns about welfare that we in the Committee have all voiced and worried about in our discussions today. My hon. Friend the Minister is welcome to intervene on me with a response or to write to me on that issue. I was about to say that he could respond in the stand part debate, but this is essentially the stand part debate. He must address this point before I decide how to proceed with my amendments.
I might be able to help my hon. Friend. Perhaps I was not clear enough earlier; I should have made a more clear distinction between PAWSI and the Department’s working group. I understand that PAWSI is run by a small number of people, including a zoo vet, an animal consultant and someone from film production. Invitees to PAWSI’s council include the Dogs Trust, the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the RSPCA and a circus representative. PAWSI has prepared a rough draft of a code of practice, but the DEFRA working group has not yet considered it. The working group includes representatives from the Born Free Foundation, the RSPCA, the Animal Consultants and Trainers Association, the Kennel Club, the Arts Council, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Dogs Trust, the SSPCA, the Production Guild, PAWSI and the Association of Circus Proprietors of Great Britain, so it has a much wider membership. That group will, we hope, agree the code of practice. If it fails to do so the Government will have to bring forward regulations.
I appreciate that assurance regarding the DEFRA working group. I hope, if we are to go down the standards route, that we will have high standards and, as others have said, that the hurdles will be set prohibitively high so that no circus could keep performing animals any longer. In a way, I wish that my hon. Friend the Minister had said in his response that the regulations would effectively mean an end to performing animals in circuses, but he did not go quite that far—neither did he on Second Reading. That is why I am being so persistent, because I need more reassurance on this point. Will the regulations mean an end to performing animals in circuses? That is a crucial point if he is to consider bringing forward the regulations to take effect from an earlier date. He is not intervening on me; perhaps we can correspond on this issue.
I think that I made my position absolutely clear earlier, Mrs. Humble.
Well, I shall persist with the question: will the regulations mean an end to performing animals in circuses? My hon. Friend the Minister is not making any further comment on that.
With the greatest respect to my hon. Friend, she is asking whether regulations that are yet to be published and yet to be consulted on will ban all animals, including domestic animals—she did not specify wild animals. No, I cannot give her that assurance, and it is unrealistic and unreasonable of her to expect me to do so in Committee.
That is very helpful, because it gives me more of a feeling of where we must go, and what those of us who want a ban must do to get it.
Definitions are a vital question; there has been much discussion of them and I have some concerns about my drafting of the new clauses. I have concerns about our definition of circuses, although travelling circuses are a well understood concept. As to wild animals, the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 provides a workable definition of a wild animal, as does the Zoo Licensing Act 1981. DEFRA’s circulars also give guidance on that. However, I should like more time to reflect.
If the Minister is to reflect on the timing, I shall reflect on some of the definitions in my amendments—the definitions of “circus” and the definitions relating to animals and performance—to ascertain whether there is a way to table something a little tighter on Report, to deal with the Minister’s worries about how we achieve our aims. I shall do so on the understanding that he will consider some of the issues that we debated earlier, such as bringing forward the timetable and examining the 1981 Act with respect to winter quarters.
I shall reconsider my new clauses and amendments if the Minister will give me an assurance that he will also do some work before Report, to enable us to bring our positions closer with a view to achieving our aims. As he said, he does not believe that welfare standards are being met, because of the way the animals are being transported. Perhaps we can work together to end that cruelty and suffering. It is only on that basis that I am prepared to withdraw my amendments at this stage. It is more a question of my own drafting than of my hon. Friend’s comments. I still have worries. I think that we shall have to return to the matter on Report or in the House of Lords. I want the Government to table some simple amendments on Report to deal with the concerns raised in Committee about some of the most serious welfare abuses in Britain today.
I appreciate that guidance, Mrs. Humble. It is a shame, because I wanted to buy more time to reflect before decisions were made on the new clauses. Reluctantly, I shall not press the consequential amendments and new clauses 8 and 9, but I reassure the Committee that the issue is not dead. Today’s debate is a step on the way to a ban, and I shall return to the matter on Report. I am sure that it will also be dealt with in the other place. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.