Friday, June 24, 2011
Tory MP Mark Pritchard 'threatened' by Number 10 over ban of use of wild animals in circuses, unnecessary use of the whip to beat down dissent
One of the highlights for kids is being taken to the circus, where there is the opportunity to see wild animals.
Circuses are seen by children as a place of magic and wonder.
But in the pass issues regarding cruelty have risen, of animal maltreatment and unnecessary use of the whip for example.
Fast forward to 2011 and Tory PM David Cameron is accused of unnecessary use of the whip himself.
Not beating a lion, tiger or bear but one of his own backbenchers.
Tory MP Mark Pritchard claims he has been threatened by Number 10 after he managed to get the use of wild animals in circuses banned after an extraordinary debate in the Commons.
Mark Pritchard led the backbench charge to call for an end to the practice despite 'incentives' to scrap his plan.
And he has said publicly he will not be bullied by whips or the Prime Minister.
The decision will not bind the Government but who maintain there are legal obstacles to a full ban.
In a classic open show of defiance, Pritchard, MP for the Wrekin, told MPs he was first offered 'incentive and reward' if he complied with the wishes of the party hierarchy.
The carrot and the stick!
But when he decided to stay the course, then the pressure was applied.
'I had a call from the Prime Minister's office directly and I was told that, unless I withdraw this motion, the Prime Minister himself said he would look upon it very dimly indeed.'
'I will not be bullied by any other whips. This is an issue I have campaigned on for many years.'
There were currently three travelling circuses in the UK, with a total of 39 wild animals, including zebras, lions, tigers and camels.
Mr Pritchard's motion, which called for the introduction of 'regulation banning the use of all wild animals in circuses' from July 2012, was also signed by Labour's Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) and the Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell (Colchester).
In the face of a genuine cross party support, it is hard to see the government trying to use the strong arm on what should be a free vote.
Agriculture Minister Jim Paice said he shared the views of MPs concerned about the use of performing animals but raised concerns about possible legal challenges to a ban as proposed by Mr Pritchard.
'The reality is that the Animal Welfare Act of 2006, Section 12, does not allow ethical considerations to be a justification for a ban.'
He also added:
'The Government is determined to stamp out cruelty and bad welfare for animals in circuses.'
And that the Government has proposed a tough licensing scheme for circuses using wild animals.
Shadow environment minister Gavin Shuker asked whether the tough conditions would mean animals were still 'travelling for weeks on end up and down motorways, chained in a cage'.
Is he proposing they be unchained while travelling?
The campaign to stop the use of wild animals in circuses has gathered momentum in recent weeks, culminating yesterday with an open letter from a group of celebrities to the Prime Minister urging the Government to act.
The letter, sent by Animal Defenders International, was signed by a number of high-profile names including actor Brian Blessed, comic Ricky Gervais and Queen guitarist Brian May.
X Factor winner Leona Lewis has also joined the fight, writing to her MP Diane Abbott to demand action.
Whether Diane Abbott would be interested I cannot say, she has a part time job in self promotion so it would depend is it to her political advantage.
If circuses are banned I think it would be a great loss to children and the next step after that is do we ban agricultural shows?
I see no harm in circuses if animals are well treated and do not suffer distress, better licensing seems preferable to a complete ban.
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University