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Potential legal obstacles

Posted by Richard Thursday, March 01, 2012


It seems that The Independent has invented a new type of headline - one that completely contradicts its own story.

Thus, while being told in the headline today (above) that wild animals are to be banned from circuses, the story goes on to say that: "Ministers will today dash hopes of an immediate ban on the use of wild animals in circuses". DEFRA has said it cannot outlaw the use of animals because of "potential legal obstacles".

Still, you can see why the paper is reluctant to declare the truth, given last year's headline (below) which paraded a famous victory.


The real confusion, however, arises from what is self-evidently government spin, with the Press Association stating:
Ministers are to unveil plans in the Commons that will outlaw the practice at the earliest opportunity. But a tough new licensing regime will be brought in to improve conditions for performing animals while changes in the law are developed.
Bizarrely, we then have a DEFRA spokeswoman saying:
We always said we were minded to ban wild animals performing in travelling circuses, the only issue being that we have to be sure that a ban cannot be overturned legally. Therefore in the meantime we are proposing a tough new licensing regime which can be introduced quickly, to ensure high welfare standards.
So, despite last year's unanimous vote by MPs for the practice of using wild animals in circuses to be outlawed, and 30,000 people signing a petition, the government is only prepared to "set out plans to create a licensing regime to ensure animals are well treated", against the vague promise that it is "minded" to ban wild animals performing in travelling circuses.

Jan Creamer, chief executive of Animal Defenders International, says: "It is appalling that public and parliamentary wishes are cast aside in such a cavalier manner."

And indeed it is "appalling", but that is the sort of thing that happens when you outsource your legislative powers to Brussels. As we have pointed out, on one or two occasions, animal welfare in circuses is covered by Commission Regulation (EC) No 1739/2005 of 21 October 2005, laying down animal health requirements for the movement of circus animals between Member States.

Thus, the British government is not permitted to legislate in what is an "occupied field", and can only lamely cite "potential legal obstacles" as an excuse for not acting, somehow omitting that these are EU obstacles.

Ironically, the EU law is part of the Single Market acquis, of which Mr Cameron is so proud – although not proud enough to direct his officials to claim credit for it when the shoe pinches. But then, he can always rely on confusion and obfuscation from the media to keep it from the voters.

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