Sheffield Animal Action Presents Petition in Sheffield City Council Meeting

Yesterday marked a major milestone for our campaign to ban all animal circuses from Sheffield. After reaching 201 signatures we were given three minutes to present our petition to the council.

Our speech was immediately followed by a brief response from Councillor Mary Lea (Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Leisure).

Mary Lea discussed party policies on banning animal circuses. She noted that these policies do not cover domestic animals like horses, but was in agreement that a horse is no more suited to circus life than a wild animal.

In her response she not only indicated support for our basic aim, but also referenced widespread support for our petition from the council as a whole. This has certainly been reflected in the replies we have had to our emails, which have been overwhelmingly positive.

Although concerns were expressed over exactly what the council have the legal right and ability to do, we do not believe that this will be an issue. The council already have a policy in place against circuses that use wild animals, so it should be a simple matter of extending this policy to include those that use domestic animals.

Any ban that results from this would, of course, only prevent the circuses from using public land – they would still be free to use private land at the discretion of the land owner. To bring about a complete legal ban on animal circuses we need to work with other animal rights groups to petition the central government.

We can expect to receive a written response in the next 28 days. Huge thanks to everyone who took the time to send an email to their local representative and the 201 people who signed our petition. We couldn’t have got this far without you.

Our Speech to Sheffield City Council

Naturally we deviated from this a little, but the basic outline of our speech to Sheffield City Council was as follows:

I am here to petition the council to ban all animal circuses from our city, including those that use domestic animals. We have collected 201 signatures from Sheffield residents in support of this.

We believe that the practice of using any animals in circus acts is unethical, outdated and unnecessary.

It is impossible for a travelling circus to meet the needs of the animals in their care, regardless of the welfare claims they make.

Touring circuses cover thousands of miles a year. The animals may be confined for hours or days.

We also have serious concerns regarding how circuses coerce animals into performing tricks that are far removed from their normal behaviour.

Anyone who knows anything about horses will tell you how poorly adapted their bodies are to walking on two legs or having a fully grown adult stand on their back. The horses are whipped to force this unnatural behaviour.

Behind the closed doors of a circus we do not believe that there is any consideration for the interests of the animals.

The relationship between a profitable enterprise and the animals they use bears little to no resemblance to the relationship between a pet and their loving carer or owner.

The treatment of domestic animals in circuses may or may not constitute animal abuse under the Animal Welfare Act. We do not know what happens away from the public eye but regardless, no animal – wild or otherwise – should be forced to perform cheap tricks for our amusement.

We recognise the council’s existing position regarding the use of wild animals in circuses. We see no reason why this policy should not be extended to provide protection for all animals, including domesticated animals like horses, dogs, cats, and budgies.

The RSPCA, and I quote, “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 unavoidable realities.”

A recent UK survey found that 65% of people agree that all animal circus acts should be banned.

We urge Sheffield City Council to deny access to our parks and public spaces to any such show. This can be facilitated by a simple extension of the council’s existing policy against shows that use wild animals.

Next Steps to Ban Animal Circuses From Sheffield

We are now compiling case studies on local councils who ban all animal circuses, including those that use domestic animals. We will present these to Councillor Mary Lea in the hope that she is able to introduce a similar policy.

Unfortunately, whatever happens, we’re too late for this year; Zippo’s Circus will be performing in Sheffield on the 9th August – 13th August. Regardless of the outcome of our petition, we will be welcoming them to Sheffield with a full-scale demonstration in Endcliffe Park.

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