MP slams decision on circus animals

Bobby Roberts still uses animals in his circus, which recently visited Whitburn.
Bobby Roberts still uses animals in his circus, which recently visited Whitburn.
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A WEARSIDE MP today condemned the Government’s decision not to ban the use of wild animals in circuses.

An opinion poll this week showed that 71 per cent of the British public favours a ban.

But Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has opted instead for a system of licensing, insisting outlawing circus animals would make no sense at a time when a ban in Austria is being challenged under European law.

Speaking after the announcement, Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson described it as a “shocking decision”.

Over the last two weeks, she said, up to 21,000 people also signed a national petition, backed by the RSPCA and British Veterinary Association, in support of the ban.

“This is a shocking decision given the strength of public feeling on this issue,” said Mrs Hodgson. “The only people who don’t back a ban are the circus owners and ministers.

“The Government is in a real mess on this.

“David Cameron needs to have a word with ministers at DEFRA, like he did over the forest sell-off, and remind them that they are there to serve the public, not private interests.”

Bosses at the Bobby Roberts Super Circus, which visited Whitburn earlier this month <May>, defended themselves against cruelty claims made by animal rights groups.

The Captive Animals’ Protection Society urged people to avoid the circus after alleging video footage appeared to show the circus’ elephant, Anne, being beaten.

However, as reported in the Echo, the family defended the show.

Bobby’s wife Moira Roberts said: “Bobby and his family have been running this circus for 60 years and it’s been really hard over the last 20 years because of all the accusations, but Bobby has never shown the animals anything but kindness.”

The two-hour circus show, at Wheathall Farm, Mill Lane, included nine minutes of performance with the animals, domesticated horses and ponies.

Campaigners said their fight for a national ban would continue.

@SunEchoJohnston