Wednesday 23 January 2013

Green MLA Challenges Agriculture Minister To Make An Ethical Decision And Ban Wild Animals In Circuses In Northern Ireland

Green Party MLA Steven Agnew has criticised Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill for failing to introduce legislation to ban the use of wild animals in circuses in Northern Ireland.

Following a question in the Assembly when the Minister said she has not reached a decision on introducing secondary legislation to stop circuses which use wild animals performing in Northern Ireland, the Green Party Leader said: “I am disappointed and angered that Minister will not address this issue directly and urgently.

“I am also surprised she believes that life for animals in circuses is not detrimental to their health or their welfare is not compromised.

“Our developing understanding of animal welfare now means that we know what they need in order to thrive physically and psychologically.

“Conditions for good welfare include freedom of movement, ability to perform natural behaviours such as foraging, hunting and dust bathing, having control over situations, such as being able to escape from frightening events like crowds or loud noises and the avoidance, where possible, of generally stressful experiences, such as transportation and cramped living space.

“With the best will in the world, these conditions cannot be met in the environment of a travelling circus and therefore the welfare of animals suffers.

“Life for circus animals consists of being housed in trucks (restricted to the maximum size of lorry permitted on roads) and small barren temporary enclosures for 90-99% of the day; enclosures are, on average, a quarter the size of those recommended for zoos.

“Some animals are simply tethered to a peg in the ground, unable to move beyond a few meters or socialise with others.

“Loading and transport are stressful even for animals that are experienced on a weekly basis for the 5-10 months circuses travel around the country.

“The Green Party in Northern Ireland made a manifesto commitment to raise standards of animal welfare in Northern Ireland across all sectors from domestic pets, through to indigenous wildlife.

“We want Northern Ireland to lead the way when it comes to protecting vulnerable animals from unnecessary suffering and we believe that ban wild animals in circuses will be a good step forward.

“There is overwhelming public support for the banning of wild animals in circus and it is the morally and ethically correct thing to do.

Of more than 10,500 analysed responses to the UK Government’s 2010 consultation on this issue, 94% favoured a ban, including representatives of zoo and veterinary professions which is a clear indicator of the overwhelming public revulsion of animals performing in circuses.

“The Minister says she has an ‘open mind’ on this issue but if she steps up and makes a moral and ethical decision she could eradicate the inherent suffering of animals in circuses and end this cruel practice in Northern Ireland.”

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