Is Britain ahead of the rest on animal welfare?
Photo by wolfsavard (Flickr) - modified by me using Google Picasa.
I think it is but I neither want to promote one country nor be disrespectful of other countries. There are no black and white answers. I am prompted to make that statement by the news that our government has agreed to phase out circus animals by first significantly tightening up licensing regulations and then legislating for an outright ban nationwide in about two years time (2014). That is quite a dramatic step but one that is much needed. The idea of training wild animals such as the tiger, lion and elephant to do silly tricks to entertain children in between a lifetime of living in tight cages and never ending travel is outdated and frankly cruel. The world has decidedly moved on. Anyone who wants to keep circus animals must have a commercial reason or they are ignorant of the conditions under which they live.
Britain would not be the first country in the world to ban circus animals. Bolivia were the first. You wouldn't have guessed that would you? However, it has to be said that the change in the laws of Bolivia banning circus animals stems from the actions of a British organisation based in London: Animal Defenders International (ADI). They found widespread abuse in circuses in Bolivia.
There is almost bound to be similar situations in other countries including England. The last circus elephant in Britain was a female named "Anne". She is now (2012) 59 years old. She was beaten by her circus trainer employed by Moira and Bobby Roberts. She was released to an safari park (Longleat). This happened because the British public donated £340,000 for her care. That says something about Britain. We are generous and tolerant nation.
Not long ago in Russian eight tigers were killed in transportation. Circus animals are commercial assets to circus operators - no more and no less. There is little sentimental attachment. You can't expect wonderful caretaking of animals to come out of that situation.
Two other countries ahead of Britain in banning circus animals are Austria, Singapore. Well done.
It surprises me that circus animals are still accepted in most countries. It is a reflection on our continued, general, disrespect for animals and our arrogance.
Apparently, the British government were forced into considering a ban on circus animals by backbench MPs. These are members of parliament who are not part of the executive (the government - the members of parliament who are government ministers). Clearly there was not a lot of enthusiasm from government - hardly praiseworthy. In fact there appears to have been obstruction with dirty tricks employed to prevent legislation being debated. The reason behind this may be been prioritisation. Animals are well down the list of things for governments to debate.
I am pleased, however. The hard part will be executing the plan - getting the ban in place or to use modern jargon, walking the walk rather than just talking about it.
I can't sign off without mentioning the Animal Welfare Act 2006. This is a fine piece of legislation that is one of the best in the world for protecting and respecting animals. Some other countries would do well to adopt it.