Ban on circuses with live animals

Ban on circuses with live animals

4 September 2019

CIRCUSES using live animals will be banned from performing throughout the Newry, Mourne and Down Council area.

The move calling for the council not to grant entertainment licences to circuses using live animals was passed at Monday night’s full council meeting.

It echoes back to a previous ban enforced by the legacy Down District Council which prohibited circuses with live animals performing on council facilities.

The notice of motion, tabled by Alliance councillor Patrick Brown, was supported by 31 councillors. The only dissenting voice came from the DUP’s Harry Harvey, who voted against. 

The DUP councillor took an alternative view on the perceived harmful effect that circus life has on animals.

Cllr Harvey said: “I won’t be supporting this motion as circus animals are very well trained and well trained animals are generally happy and well looked after.”

Cllr Brown told the meeting that many animals travelling with circuses were “subjected to constantly being moved around cramped temporary housing, forced training and performance, loud noises and intimidating crowds of people.”

He continued: “Travelling circus life is likely to have a harmful effect on animal welfare as captive animals are unable to socialise, get enough exercise or exhibit natural behaviours. Many animals develop behavioural and/or health problems as a direct result of the captive life that they are forced to lead.”

He said that a recent report commissioned by the Welsh Government concluded that: “Life for wild animals in travelling circuses... does not appear to constitute either a ‘good life’ or a ‘life worth living’.”

“The Irish government recently saw footage from the Animal Defenders International group which showed elephants and camels being repeatedly punched and hit with sticks to perform,” said Cllr Brown.

He added: “In May, the UK Government announced it would be banning wild animals in circuses from early 2020. The Irish Government banned wild animals in January 2018. 

“As usual, this being a devolved issue, Northern Ireland is behind the times yet again. This issue was actually raised in the Assembly as far back as 2011 by my good friend Jim Wells MLA, who was very critical of the failure of Michelle O’Neill’s Agriculture department to include such provisions in the Welfare of Animals Act 2011.”

The councillor argued that some of the world’s best circuses, such as the Cirque de Soleil, ddid not use any animals which “reflects a global trend towards human-centered performances that no longer use animals, including the Russian and Chinese state circuses.”

He added: “Hopefully council will lead the way on animal welfare and pass this motion.”

The motion was seconded by fellow Alliance councillor Gregory Bain.

Downpatrick SDLP councillor John Trainer, who also supported the motion said circuses did not provide a natural habitat for animals.

DUP councillor Billy Walker, UUP councillor David Taylor and Sinn Féin’s Willie Clarke all supported the motion on behalf of their respective parties.