Ban these majestic animals being paraded for entertainment
Bojo's writer dad says the Government must act now to end abuse of circus animals
The Sun, 24th February 2015
A CAMEL, zebra and llama are paraded for the audience in a big tent.
Soon they will be locked back in their pens and carted around Britain by Circus Mondao — all in the name of entertainment.
Labour has made it an election pledge to ban animals in circuses.
But here Boris Johnson's writer father argues that the Government must stop dragging its feet and take action now.
AS a lifelong campaigner for animal welfare causes, I am hugely passionate about finally ending the use of wild animals in circuses.
We have moved on from the days where using them in this way is considered as entertainment, and the Government must keep up with the times.
Around 20 wild animals, including camels, zebra, reindeer, snakes, a raccoon, fox and ankole (a type of African cow) are still being taken around Britain. A lion and tiger act also toured until recently.
These majestic animals spend their lives on the back of a lorry regardless of whether they are on the road or not.
Despite assurances from the circuses, the most basic needs of the animals cannot be met.
They are kept in makeshift facilities that can be packed away and set up at each new site — denied the environment and space they need to perform their innate, natural behaviours.
The animals can also experience brutal lives behind the scenes.
Animal Defenders International (ADI) has time and again documented the violent training methods and abuse that is meted out to animals in circuses out of public sight.
You might remember the case of Anne, the last circus elephant in Britain. ADI exposed her being brutally beaten by circus staff and constantly chained.
Snatched from the wild as a baby, the elderly and arthritic elephant was hit with a metal pitchfork and kicked around the face and body. The footage led to the conviction of her owner under the Animal Welfare Act.
Without a change in the law to ban wild animals in circuses, Anne may not be the last elephant to suffer in a British circus.
There are presently no measures in place to stop elephants — or bears and rhinos, who have toured here before — from being shipped from the continent to perform in Britain.
Only a ban would prevent such unwelcome acts from visiting our shores.
A life in the circus is as far removed from the life a wild animal should have as you can possibly get.
ADI has rescued lions, monkeys and other animals from circuses around the world. These animals are respected, given space to roam and will never be forced to perform silly tricks again.
With the companionship of their own kind and in an environment as close to their natural surroundings as possible, they are free to be who and what they are. Their transformation is incredible.
The public has consistently been behind a ban on wild animal acts and it is time for the Government to stop dragging its feet and take action.
This issue was first discussed in Parliament back in 2006, and the Government announced a ban three years ago following a unanimous vote from MPs.
As a result of government inaction, a backbench Bill was introduced last September but, unbelievably, a tiny handful of MPs are persistently obstructing its progress — not on substantive grounds but to make some obscure procedural point about whether it should be presented by the Government or a backbencher.
I will be heading a delegation to Downing Street tomorrow with ADI to deliver a 20,000-strong petition which calls on the Prime Minister to finally end the use of wild animals in circuses.
The last time I "lobbied" David Cameron on this topic he made a personal commitment to me that a ban would be passed. But a year on, we are no further along in seeing a resolution to this issue. Animals are still suffering and it is time to stop this archaic practice.
There are now 30 countries with bans in place, half of which are within Europe.
There is still time for us to join them before the election if the Government is serious about its promise and if rogue Christchurch MP Christopher Chope — who has blocked the Bill seven times — finally allows it to pass.
The Bill will be presented again on Friday. In my view, it will be tragic if the opportunity to make progress in the current Parliament is missed.
If it is, then it will be up to the political parties to set out their positions in their election manifestos and for whoever comes to power to bring in the ban as soon as possible.
This must be the last year wild animals suffer in the circus.
A Circus Mondao spokesman said last night: "Circuses are licensed by central Government. If you wish to see why and how they are licensed, go to the Defra website."
—Mr Johnson added: "If, like me, you feel strongly about this issue, please support ADI by visiting stopcircussuffering.com. I am donating my fee for writing this article to ADI to help this and other campaigns to end cruelty to animals.