Wild Animals (Circuses) debate

Neil Parish backs a motion to ban wild animals in circuses but raises concerns that the proposed timescale could enable a legal challenge as a result of an outstanding case in another European state.Neil Parish (Tiverton and Honiton) (Con): I support the motion as it is high time we banned animals in circuses. I have been worried about the stance that has been taken and I am glad the Government Whips have now given us a free vote on this, because animal welfare is a moral issue and Members on both sides of the House want a ban on wild animals in circuses.The plank of the Government’s argument relating to Austria is fragile, and I fear that it might be sawn off at some stage. I would prefer us to take a much firmer stance by going for a ban and letting somebody challenge it if they want to, because I do not think that anybody will do so.Mark Reckless (Rochester and Strood) (Con): Given the position my hon. Friend has set out, why has he decided to be the lead signatory to the amendment to the motion? If my understanding is correct, the amendment would have prevented any ban from being introduced until some supposed EU legal issue was resolved.Neil Parish: I will deal with that later, but I have previously stated that we should challenge the court ruling in the Austria case.There has been too much talk today about the process of government and who is to blame and who is not to blame, instead of getting to grips with the welfare issues of animals in circuses. If we do have to take note of the case in Austria—Andrew Bingham (High Peak) (Con): My hon. Friend talks about process, but does he not agree that the best thing to do is vote in favour of the motion and get the ban put in place, job done?Neil Parish: Yes, but putting the ban in place will take a little while, so meanwhile we should consider certain animal welfare issues. The conditions endured by circus animals when being transported are totally wrong. The conditions need to be greatly improved. There must be much more comprehensive inspection of that, which would lead to much greater costs on such circuses. Therefore, a great deal of pressure can be applied in the meantime, before we introduce a ban.I may disagree with the points made by the hon. Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell), but in a democracy he has the right to raise them. He talked about the fact that many of these animals have performed for many years. They will need to be rehabilitated and found homes, so let us use the time available to good effect in that regard.We want the Government to listen to the arguments on a total ban. I do not know what the Minister is going to say, but I would like him to say that the Government have thought again and that they are minded to introduce a ban in the future. That is what we want. In this day and age, we cannot have wild animals in circuses. Many of us also know about the pain that can be caused by the amount of training those animals are put through and the way in which they are trained to perform in unnatural ways.Mr Dodds: The hon. Gentleman has not yet answered the question put to him by the hon. Member for Rochester and Strood (Mark Reckless) about how he reconciles his current stated position with his position as the leading signatory to the amendment.Neil Parish: Perhaps I am being criticised for taking a pragmatic view on this. I want a ban and the only reason for the amendment was that the requirement in the motion that a ban would have to be in place in 12 months might not have settled the legal situation. We do not want to give the Government an excuse not to move towards a ban.Mark Pritchard: To which legal cases is my hon. Friend referring? There are currently none in England, the United Kingdom or in European law. There is only one possible case in Austria. Is he, as a former Member of the European Parliament and allegedly a Eurosceptic, suggesting that we should wait for the decisions of domestic courts in other capitals, let alone in European courts, before making our own decisions in this country?Neil Parish: I covered that point at the beginning of my speech when I said that the case in Austria is not a good one on which to put the whole plank of the Government’s reasons for why we cannot ban the use of wild animals in circuses. As far as I am concerned, the only reason for the amendment was to give the Government time to come forward with a ban. Clearly, there is a move from all parts of the House to ban the use of wild animals in circuses. Now we want to hear from the Minister very clearly what the timetable for that will be, how we are going to deal with the court case and how we will move to a ban as quickly as possible.| Hansard