Councillors told minister must ban live circus animals

Councillors told minister must ban live circus animals

6 November 2019

LOCAL politicians have been told that any decision to implement a province-wide ban on circuses using live animals must be taken by a government minister.

The news was confirmed at Monday night’s monthly meeting of Newry, Mourne and Down Council, just two months after the local authority banned the use of circuses using live animals performing in the district.

Politicians agreed not to grant entertainment licences to circuses using live animals and called on the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to consider a Northern Ireland-wide ban on circuses using live animals.

But, in a letter to the council, the government department said any decision to launch a consultation and enact legislation to ban live animals was a matter for a future minister.

The government department did, however, confirm that officials have been gathering evidence on the use of animals in circuses operating in the province which will enable DAERA to bring forward policy proposals, in the event that a minister and Assembly wish to initiate legislation.

Government officials have confirmed that at present, there are no circuses domiciled in Northern Ireland, although a small number are registered elsewhere that travel to the country to perform.

DAERA says that any circus which wishes to perform, must comply with the Welfare of Animals Act which provides a range of powers to safeguard the welfare of all animals, including live animals in circuses.

The government department’s letter concludes: “It is an offence to cause an animal to suffer, either through a deliberate action or failure to act.

“Where these is reason to believe that an animal is suffering, or likely to suffer, an inspector can, without police presence, take immediate action to alleviate its suffering.”

A number of years ago, the former Down Council prohibited circuses with live animals performing on council facilities.