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For Immediate Release: 12/22/11

Austrian Decision Forces U.K. Government’s Hand on Future Use of Wild Animals in Circuses

From the Born Free Foundation:

A landmark judgement by the Austrian Constitutional Court in Vienna on Dec. 21 to reject a challenge by Germany’s Circus Krone to Austria’s decision to ban the use of wild animals in circuses could, at last, bring an end to this controversial and widely rejected form of animal exploitation in England.

The British government has, for the last year or more, claimed that fear of a legal challenge to any ban (under the European Convention on Human Rights or the EC Services Directive) has prevented the swift introduction of a ban by Westminster, despite overwhelming Parliamentary and public support for such a measure.

Referring to "legal obstacles" and the "The Austrian case," Defra Ministers have been advised, instead, to pursue a complicated and, in the view of many wildlife professionals (including the Born Free Foundation, The Captive Animals’ Protection Society, The RSPCA, the British Veterinary Association and others), unworkable licensing system.

However, the ruling by the Constitutional Court in Austria changes all that.

“I can see no reason now why DEFRA should persist with a licensing regime when the legal obstacles they feared have been blown away,” said Will Travers, chief executive officer of the Born Free Foundation.

Born Free, CAPS, the RSPCA and the other groups have consistently maintained that the regime of circus life — involving the frequent haulage of wild animals from venue to venue, training and performance — cannot guarantee the necessary welfare standards for the wild animals involved.

Born Free Trustee Jenny Seagrove, said: “Surely now the government will put in place what over 90 percent of the country wants and change the law to end the use of wild animals in circuses.”

The Foundation’s founder, Virginia McKenna OBE, stated: “What can now prevent our government from doing the right thing? The suffering of one creature is one too many and a ban would be humane, just and the right decision.”

Joanna Lumley, Born Free’s Founder Patron, called for government action to be swift and decisive: “The whole idea of setting up regulations was always a nonsense and now, with the way cleared for an outright ban, we all expect measures to be taken by the government as a matter of urgency to ensure that no wild animals will be compelled, once more, to ‘take to the road’ when the circus season starts again in 2012.”

Born Free, CAPS, the RSPCA and others will urgently be seeking clarification and assurances from Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman MP, confirming that the government’s New Year’s resolution will be move with all speed to bring the curtain down on the use of wild animals in circuses.

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