Your Guide to the Reality of Animal Circus

"The academic panel concluded that there appears to be little evidence to demonstrate that the welfare of animals kept in travelling circuses is any better or worse than that of animals kept in other captive environments" - Executive Summary of the DEFRA Circus Working Group 2007

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Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Animal Rights: The Funding Gap & Moving The Goal Posts

Much to the angst of the animal-rights lobbyists - such as Animal Defenders International (ADI) and the Captive Animals Protection Society (CAPS) - the UK government seems to have decided its muted ban on performing wild animals in circus is not of enough importance to merit mention in the Queen's Speech, a Parliamentary tradition that lays out forthcoming Parliamentary legislation.  Therefore this suggested ban is unlikely to gain any momentum this side of the 2015 UK General Election.   

Moreover, with the successful implementation of circus animal regulations including inspection and licensing in December 2012, the government seems to be in no hurry to rush through legislation of no real merit at this current time.   

However, it is clear that these various animal-rights groups have been wrong footed by this development and in doing so their wider agenda has been revealed.  After all, what can these groups do to keep themselves and their directors in comfortable employment when the cash cow of the performing circus animal has been slain. The answer is simple: attack the use of trained animals for films, television and advertising and also those used for public display in zoological collections.

One has to look no further for an example of this drift than a recent 'Press Release' from
Animal Defenders International regarding the use of elephants in the film "The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared"

Once again, the Press Release peddles the rhetoric of generalised abuse of animals in training situations stating that:

"Experts agree that the use of wild animals in the entertainment industry causes suffering."
This is far from the truth.

As has been stated ad nauseam on these blogs in the past, the UK government's own DEFRA - Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs report in 2007 made it very clear that banning circus animals in UK circuses was not justified on animal welfare grounds. 

Moreover, in a written ministerial statement in March 2012 the UK's Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, James Paice, stated very clearly:
"...The 2007 Radford Report on circus animals concluded that there was insufficient scientific evidence to demonstrate t hat travelling circuses are unable to meet the welfare needs of wild animals presently being used in the United Kingdom. That position has not changed. Consequently, we are now looking at the means by which a ban could be introduced on ethical ground..."
Furthermore, the extension of the claims of suffering of animals in CIRCUSES to animals in ENTERTAINMENT is very telling of the whole of ADI animal rights agenda and places such claims on even more shaky grounds - as if that was even possible. 

ENTERTAINMENT, ADI is being rather broad in its remit as it now mentions zoos (in its citing of the discredited film "Blackfish") and the use of animals in film and television production.  It should be noted that both these industries in the USA and the UK have well defined welfare regulation including registration of trainers, inspection of facilities and licensing

Unfortunately, this would never impress animal-rights lobby groups such as ADI as they want this all banned as there is never a middle ground with these righteous zealots.  

Further Reading:

American Humane Association’s Film & TV Unit

ACTA - Animal Consultants and Trainers Association

Animal Defenders International : the real elephant in the room.

A Slippery Slope Down the Big Top? By Gordon Bysshe

The rise and rise of Animal Defenders

Animal Defenders International has come a long way since it was formed in 1990 by Janet Creamer. She had been working for the National Anti-Vivisection Society (formed in 1875) first as a volunteer and then as an employee, since 1969 when she was 17. She used her skills as a graphic designer to produce the society's magazine and began giving interviews and talks before being appointed Chief Executive. She then set up Animal Defenders and moved the two groups from their small office in Harley Street to Goldhawk Road in West London. Further expansion has seen another move, to an expensive suite of offices in Westminster - Millbank Tower - with a staff of 15 and an annual income of nearly £1.5m mainly derived from donations and legacies. Animal Defenders carefully conceals its status as a limited company whose directors include Ms. Creamer and her husband Tim Phillips.

The pair met when he was running his own small animal rights group, the Central Animal Liberation League with a weekly magazine 'Turn Point' and married in 1996. He was inspired by watching Victor Schonfield's documentary 'The Animals Film' on Channel 4 in 1981. Within two weeks he had become a vegetarian, left his banking job, purchased a camera and began going undercover to capture footage of animals in laboratories and circuses. He has never denied being the cameraman responsible for the images included in the BBC programme 'Here and Now' which showed animals at the Chipperfield winter quarters, startled by being disturbed in the early hours of the morning, looking distressed. The resulting complaints to the Broadcasting Standards Commission were upheld.

At the suggestion in 1996 of the late American animal rights activist Pat Derby, Animal Defenders opened a branch on Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles and adopted the epithet 'Animal Defenders International'.

The operation of ADI is obviously a successful collaboration for Mr and Mrs Phillips enabling them to live on River Mount the private road in leafy Walton-on-Thames known in the 'gin and jag belt' as 'Millionaires' Row'.

Reproduced from Ray Dolling's article in "Panthera" magazine.  March 2013

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