I was delighted to hear that Greece has now banned animal circuses as of the 2nd of February 2012. I was surprised to find out that Greece is the first country in Europe to ban all animals from circuses and performances, particularly since Greece is known for having a poor animal welfare record. Of course, there may be a discrepancy between the actual law and the implementation of the law, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.
Naturally, I was shocked that the UK had not banned wild animals in circuses. The practice is cruel, not least because the animals would be unable to fulfill their natural instincts in small cramped cages, but also because they are forced to perform tricks in front of large, noisy crowds.
I was inspired to visit my local MP (Member of Parliament) about the issue. I wanted to ask my MP to sign the Early Day Motion (EDM) 2563, which calls for a ban on wild animals in circuses in the UK. An EDM is a motion that is signed by MPs so that it can be debated at some point in the future. EDMs draw attention to specific campaigns/events. The EDM on banning wild animals in circuses only had 82 signatures (bear in mind that there are 650 MPs). However, EDMs are unlikely to be debated. That said, this particular issue was debated last year in June; the government preferred to have a licensing system as opposed to an outright ban. I do not know why the Conservatives think that it is appropriate for wild animals to be kept in cages and forced to perform in this day an age, even with a ‘license’. Indeed, of the 82 signatures for the EDM 2563, only five are Tory MPs!
To cut a long story short, I visited my local MP yesterday at their office. However, my MP was not well and recovering at home. I got to speak to the secretary of the MP instead. She informed me that EDMs weren’t that influential anyway. I asked her what the MP’s stance on animal welfare was in general- the secretary didn’t know off the top of her head (clearly not high on the list of priorities), but she assured me that I would receive an email detailing my MPs stance. Which is good enough for me. Ultimately, it gets my MP thinking about the issue. That said, I can’t imagine MPs are terribly influential- after all, they are one in 650! But as Tesco like to say, every little helps.
There are other ways of helping animals, that are perhaps more effective. For example, I am on the PETA emailing list. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is perhaps the largest animal rights group in the world. Not without controversies however, as PETA has been criticised heavily by both vegans and non-vegans. Personally, I do not agree with all their campaigns, but I recognise their power, and the benefits associated with their power. For example, last week I received an email from PETA asking me to email Air France requesting them to cancel the transportation of 60 live monkeys from Africa to the US for use in animal experiments. Within 24 hours, Air France were bombarded with 68 000 emails demanding this very issue. Needless to say, Air France cancelled their plans to deliver the monkeys. A small victory, but success nonetheless.
To conclude, if you want to change an existing system, don’t be afraid to do something about it, however small your action may be. This could involve emailing or even speaking to your local MP, or aligning yourself with a powerful organization.