The Green Party have long argued that animal acts in circuses are cruel and degrading, and should not be allowed to continue.
In Westminster, and previously as an MEP, I’ve actively fought for measures that would bring greater animal protection – including the campaign to end the use of wild animals in circuses.
Locally, I’m supporting the campaign and petition calling for Brighton and Hove City Council to stop giving permission to circuses who continue to use animal acts in their performances.
In recent years the Council has allowed Zippos to use their land. Yet there's clear, irrefutable evidence that there’s huge public concern about the continued use of animals in circuses; we also know more than enough about the suffering endured by circus animals because of stress and confinement.
I would like to see Brighton and Hove leading the way on animal protection, and I hope that the Council responds positively to the campaign and the huge groundswell of support the petition is gathering.
Brighton and Hove City Council
Hove Town Hall
11th January 2019
As the Member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion I'm writing to support the petition opposing the use of animals by Zippos circus, and the request it makes for Brighton and Hove City Council to not grant further licences to circuses which, like Zippos, continue to use performing animals in their shows.
There are many excellent examples of circuses operating who do not exploit animals, highlighting that it is possible for them to attract audiences without relying on animals to draw crowds. Furthermore, public opinion shows that people support a ban on animal acts in circuses, and it is a view that's very much reflected in the correspondence I receive from my constituents, where most years I receive messages from residents who are concerned to learn, and often shocked, that the Council continues to grant licences to circuses using performing animals.
The public consultation that took place when the Government discussed the ban of wild animals in circus performances found that 94.5% of people supported a ban. Whilst the consultation focused on wild animals, there is strong support for the ban to be extended to domestic animals, and a wealth of evidence that indicates significant public support to end the outdated circus model of performing animals.
More than a decade ago a MORI poll found that more than twice as many people visit animal-free circuses as opposed to those with animals. Which further reflects that the circus industry itself isn't under threat, but that public opinion now greatly reflects an understanding of animal protection which does not correlate with performing animals in this environment
I believe the strong public opinion against the use of animals in circus performances is reflected by the fact that Zippos no longer actively advertise the use of animals in their shows. I'm aware of instances where my constituents have attended a Zippos performance and would not have done so if they knew the show included animals - they have felt misled because there was no indication of the show including animals when tickets were purchased.
I feel that it is appropriate to add that, in 2014 I was alerted to the fact that in papers relating to the Council's Animal Welfare Charter ahead of an Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee meeting, in their statement Zippos said that: "Green Party MP Caroline Lucas herself has inspected the stabling and transportation, watched training sessions and Zippos horses in performance and could find nothing to criticise". This was entirely untrue, and at the time I alerted Council officers to this, and wrote directly to Zippos to ask that they retract/correct their statement.
Whilst Martin Burton, Founder and Director of Zippos, denied that Zippos' statement was a “deliberate falsehood”, he did accept that a “mistake had been made” and agreed that I had not visited as suggested. A key reason for mentioning this is that the licence is a very emotive issue for many people, and Councillors have a number of competing positions to consider when making a decision – from my experience – information being presented isn’t always accurate.
Public opinion should be an overriding factor in the decision to grant a licence. I have every reason to believe that residents in Brighton and Hove would support a ban on Zippos being a granted a licence whilst they continue to use animal acts.
Animal protection should also be a key factor. The RSPCA say that:
"We don't believe animals should be subjected to the conditions of circus life. Regular transport, cramped and bare temporary housing, forced training and performance, loud noises and crowds of people are often unavoidable realities for the animals.
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."
For these reasons, I hope that Councillors take into account the huge support for this petition, and fully consider animal protection and the harmful effects of circus life on animals when deciding whether to grant permission for Zippos in Brighton and Hove.
Caroline Lucas MP