Right to Reply: Circus Debate

On February 22nd, Country Squire Magazine published an article about circuses by Dr Marthe Kiley-Worthington. It can be read here.

In response, on the 24th February, we received the following reply from Artists United which represents Circus Performers:

Please can we have a logical debate? There is a world of difference between the training and the keeping of equestrian and domestic animals and the wild section. There are no circuses in the U.K. touring the wild section – no caged acts. You make no mention of the strict rules now being enforced by DEFRA to mainly control the wild section that just ‘might’ exist! Far above the need for training a pony or a dog. Do please study the page we have placed called ‘Traditional Circus’ on the website. You make no reference to the need to vet animal trainers! No-one does! This was the old system yet persons in the circus do not discuss the need either. Surely animal keeping requires expertise? This was the old system demanded by the proprietors’ association prior to 1985 – since then little or no control for who are the trainers and the keepers (pages of negative press about a so-called ‘keeper’ some years ago). You make no mention of the general horse pony keeping travelling community who tie stock on road verges. They are to be free of control other than a complaint by some animal group? As I read the latest Defra release it demands professional keeping of all animals that are trained. This is from the government. Sounds wise. The circus business has washed it hands of any meaningful control. Remember, the public demand the best and deserve the best, your statement ‘there are good and bad circuses’ is a nonsense to the public.

In turn, Country Squire asked for a response to this reply, from the organisers of the Kiley-Worthington piece.

Here is their reply in full:

I share your view, as would the vast majority of the public, that we should have a good logical debate on wild animals in circuses. Sadly though, ‘logic’ and ‘good’ have not been in existence for decades when applied to animal welfare as animal rights groups hijack the proceedings with malicious intent. Good honest debate with good honest politicians willing to explore conflicting evidence and listen to opposing views, for the time being at least, has been consigned to the history books along with the traditional way of managing the fox population.

In its place is a way around democracy that gives the impression of democracy and a democratic process but is merely a way of forcing a belief or ideology on the populace. If the path is blocked they go around it, in the eyes of animal rights fundamentalists, as with all fundamentalists, the end always justifies the means.

We only need to look towards the recent Welsh & Scottish review and consultations into the use of wild animals in circuses to get a clear picture of how finding a way through at all costs has replaced informed debate.

First, wealthy and powerful animal welfare groups pushing an animal rights agenda start off a vicious campaign against circuses with the help of friends in the press looking for clickbait. This goes on for some time and provides a steady source of propaganda into the homes of people that couldn’t care less. Next, opinion polls using the very biased quota sampling method and the folk that couldn’t care less are ruthlessly exploited.

Of course, their last memory of a circus was from the paper and there must be a problem, why else was it news? So, when asked, they naturally agree to a ban. Next a staunch supporter of animal rights mentored in their philosophy is promoted up from the charity sector to a position of influence and so the cycle of misinformation continues.

A review leader is carefully selected by the animal rights charities and put forward as the best candidate. What the public get is a review leader who is merely pretending to be impartial and has been on the payroll of the animal rights groups and supports their view.

Naturally he finds an excuse to ban wild animals in circuses, however in the case of the circus review a very unwelcome and untimely intervention occurs. The release of the final review report brings with it intense controversy, an impartial academic of world standing has read the report and seen his own data, has been twisted to fit the animal rights agenda, he in turn writes a scathing letter to the parliamentarian in overall charge casting serious doubt on the review and its findings. The parliamentarian now claims the review wasn’t the only evidence they considered and other evidence was considered. Evidence, if you think logically, that wasn’t good enough alone to influence a ban in the first place, that’s why they held a review. So, the next move to overcome this most inconvenient intervention is to hold a public consultation but what they are not looking for is quality of evidence from the public, all they want is more people responding wanting a ban – they use it as an opinion poll.

They know animal rights charities and groups have many friends and family so will win the consultation, the numbers are pathetically small compared to the Welsh population but that’s irrelevant. They win the opinion poll, the controversial review is quickly and conveniently forgotten and a ban announced.

However, there is more mischief to be had, the review courting fierce controversy is now shipped to Scotland by the country’s leading veterinary association who are very sympathetic to a ban and renamed from the lead author to the researcher’s name giving it a new air of credibility. Politicians are deceived by the renaming and announce the passage of the bill to ban wild animals in circuses on the strength of this ‘new’ review. Information was then sent to the Scottish parliamentarian responsible for the passage of the bill detailing the controversial review only the information is withheld from the minister in charge by animal rights supporters in Government, the ban passes through parliament and is announced in December 2017.

One would hope the Westminster Parliament, under a Conservative government, would steer a path away from such shenanigans, but sadly this proved not to be the case. They appear more than happy to stand shoulder to shoulder with cynical subterfuge.

Before Christmas 2017 a letter was sent detailing the whole sorry event to the Defra minister in charge and a response was received back from Lord Kimble. The letter detailed all of the above information surrounding the Welsh and Scottish bans but also included information pertaining to the academic responsible for the controversial review who soon retired.

None of this appears to faze DEFRA who announced on the 18th Jan 2018 they will look to ban the use of circus animals, ironically on ethical grounds.

With this information and knowledge of animal rights in politics we can conclude a logical debate surrounding animal welfare or circus animals is never going to happen, at least in the foreseeable future. The title of the article described as unhelpful by some was influenced in part by the author who wrote an independent impartial review for the country’s largest animal welfare charity.

The Author had been specially selected because they thought she would write conclusions to fit their animal rights agenda. When the final report was handed over they found to their anger she had not given them the conclusions they wanted so they applied severe pressure for her to change them. The Author stood firm by her original findings and yet has never been given the credit for standing up to such powerful wealth charities with great friends in politics.

The argument wades on…