Steven Agnew MLA calls for ban on animals in circuses

Green Party MLA Steven Agnew will today, Monday, 29 June 2015, present a 1,775-signature petition calling for the ban on animals in circuses.

This comes after Councillor Ross Brown started an online petition last month to ban circuses with animals from obtaining entertainment licences in response to the DoE consultation on entertainment licensing.

The petition has received 1,775 signatures.

North Down MLA Steven Agnew said,

“It is now time, once and for all, to see an end to the use of animals in circus acts. Circus life is unsuitable as animals are denied the freedom to express their natural behaviours.

“Therefore the petition I am submitting today calls for a change in the law to prohibit circuses with animals from obtaining an entertainment licence which they need in order to operate.

“Circus has a long tradition but it should not be acceptable to haul animals around as a form of entertainment.

“Our understanding of animal welfare is such that we know what animals need in order to thrive and I believe that the welfare needs of wild animals simply cannot be met in the environment of a travelling circus.

“From being housed in trucks of a restricted size to being kept in small temporary enclosures, they are unable to express natural behaviours. Veterinary advice shows that loading and transporting can be stressful, even for experienced animals”.

Steven Agnew continued,

“Even if there is no deliberate cruelty, to the animals, the nature of travelling circuses makes it impossible to meet the basic needs of animals that are used to freely roaming many miles a day in the wild.

“Inadequate conditions, a lack of proper facilities, the stress of constant travelling, coercion to perform tricks – the reality is that these animals are being exploited and abused.

“In the same way that society no longer tolerates ‘freak shows’, circuses with animals must no longer be defined as entertainment or tolerated as in any way acceptable.

“This petition calls on DoE Minister Mark H Durkan to take serious note of the public concern surrounding this issue and make it a priority to ensure that as part of the reforms, ensure that circus with animals are not permitted to obtain an entertainment licence. This needs to be combined with robust enforcement measures.

Steven Agnew concluded

“Northern Ireland needs to lead the way in increasing animal welfare and animal rights and ensuring that wild animals are not used in circuses would be a step in the right direction.”

Notes to editors:

1. The petition can be viewed here:

2. The majority of the public have consistently expressed a preference to end the practice. For example, a 2010 Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) report showed that 94 per cent of people surveyed favoured a ban on using animals in circuses, including representatives from the zoo and veterinary professions –

3. In February of this year, a 20,000 strong petition of the same nature was given to David Cameron in the UK, further demonstrating the nationwide support for a ban on entertainment licences for circuses with animals:

4. Further information on the DoE consultation:

5. Northern Ireland’s Welfare of Animals Act 2011 clearly lays out a code of practice outlining the five freedoms required to be met for non-farmed animals –
• its need for a suitable environment;
• its need for a suitable diet;
• its need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns;
• any need it has to be housed with, or apart from, other animals, and
• its need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.

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