National Assembly for Wales

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Y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, Amgylchedd a Materion Gwledig

Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee

02/10/2019

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Andrew R.T. Davies AM
Jenny Rathbone AM
Joyce Watson AM
Llyr Gruffydd AM
Mike Hedges AM Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Neil Hamilton AM

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Carol MacManus Cyfarwyddwr, Circus Mondao
Director, Circus Mondao
Chris Barltrop Cyn-gadeirydd Is-grŵp Syrcas Gweithgor Syrcas DEFRA
Former Chair of the Circus Sub-group of the DEFRA Circus Working Group
Giulia Corsini Milfeddyg
Veterinarian
Rona Brown Swyddog Cyswllt â’r Llywodraeth, Safonau Lles Rhyngwladol ar gyfer Anifeiliaid Perfformio (PAWSI)
Government Liaison Officer, Performing Animals Welfare Standards International (PAWSI)
Thomas Chipperfield Hyfforddwr Anifeiliaid
Animal Trainer

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Elizabeth Wilkinson Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Katie Wyatt Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser
Katy Orford Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Marc Wyn Jones Clerc
Clerk

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:30.

The meeting began at 09:30.

1. Cyflwyniad, ymddiheuriadau, dirprwyon a datgan buddiant
1. Introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest

Bore da. Good morning. Can I welcome everybody to this scrutiny session? Can I ask: have any Members got any interests to declare? Can I say that Andrew Davies will be joining us later?

2. Bil Anifeiliaid Gwyllt a Syrcasau (Cymru) - Sesiwn dystiolaeth 3
2. Wild Animals and Circuses (Wales) Bill - Evidence session 3

I now move on to the first main part of the evidence session with circus representatives. I understand that Mr Jolly is unable to attend, but that Rona Brown will speak on his behalf.

I will. I will speak both for Jolly's and for PAWSI. He sends his regards and apologises for not being here. He would have liked to have come but he's not well.

If he can't come he can't come, but I'm glad you're here. So, can I welcome Rona Brown, government liaison officer, Performing Animals Welfare Standards International; and Carol MacManus, director of Circus Mondao? If you're okay, can we move straight to questions? Thank you.

If I can start off: I think you're both aware that the grounds for the proposed ban are ethical grounds. What are your views on the Welsh Government's proposed approach that seeks to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses on ethical grounds? We've heard evidence that making wild animals in travelling circuses perform for human entertainment raises concerns around animal dignity. What's your view?

I'm sort of a bit lost by this—why it would be to the animal's dignity. Ethical grounds is just on a personal opinion—. It's just the animal rights agenda that push for this all the time.

All I'm doing is asking you about what they've told us.

Okay. The next one is that we've also heard people say that using wild animals in circuses is outdated and out of step with public opinion.

I don't believe that at all. The attendance that we get coming to see us, the interaction that the children get, the people get, everybody gets—you see it for yourself.

Also, the amount of people who reply to the surveys and the consultations, compared to the amount of people that live in Wales, is very small. Fewer than 10,000 people reply, and yet you have a population of 9 million, is it?

Three million—sorry, Scotland is 9 million. So, it's just a built-up notion by animal rights that the whole of the public across the UK dislike animals in circuses, and it just isn't true. The footfall of the people who come just to see the animals is huge compared with other things. They can see an animal in a circus that they can get close to, they can smell, they can actually see. When they go after the show, around to the back, to see the animals, they ask the trainers all sorts of questions. Kids will say, 'Why is the camel's feet like that? Oh look, the pony's feet are different. Why are they?' And the boys and girls all stand by to tell the children why they are like this. They can't do that anywhere else. You can't do that in a zoo. You can't do it in any other entertainment.

Just on the evidence balance, you say that there are so many people coming along to watch circuses. I'm not sure that that's necessarily a measure of whether they are comfortable with wild animals taking part. But there have been surveys—not just our evidence here—that indicate that there is a strong will amongst the public, really, against seeing wild animals in circuses.

Well, there's no evidence to prove that. The only way that you can judge that is if they write to you or reply to consultations.

But surveys have been held asking these questions, and they are overwhelmingly telling us that people would rather they didn't.

Out of how many respondents?

Well, it's a representative sample. You could ask that of any poll that's ever been held anywhere. Surely, it gives us an indication.

09:35

Yes, but I think, sometimes, surveys in the case that you're talking about—it's only people that are interested in actually banning us that answer; it's only people that want to complain about things—

Well, not if it's a representative sample, where you contact a cross-section of people. It isn't on their—. Responding to consultation, people who are motivated to respond will do that, clearly, but are there not supporters who are motivated in the same way, then?

That's very difficult.

I don't know the answer to that question—that is the problem. We try and persuade our circus fans, our circus friends, the people that come and see us in general, and it's a minority that are going to take the time to answer a consultation like that.

Can I just—? We glossed over very quickly the ethical question. It is the basis for this legislation. We've had evidence—quite strong and compelling evidence—that there is an ethical basis. You said that you couldn't see why it was an ethical basis. Could you explain why?

Well, I'd like to see the evidence that says it is ethical, because I don't believe there is that evidence. Ethics is a very strange, subjective word, and it's all bound up with morality, good and bad, across the world. And there is no law that says, 'This is not ethical.' But there are laws that say, 'You cannot murder', 'You cannot steal', 'You cannot do this'. And there are plenty of laws formatted around good and bad. But animals have no idea—they have no concept of dignity. The only concept the animals have is that they know when they're being treated correctly; they know good from bad. They cower if they've got a bully of a person looking after them. They joyously greet somebody who looks after them well. We know that our biggest problem is, or the circuses' biggest problem—I don't work in the circus—is that, unfortunately, across the world, there are circuses that do bad things, and should never, ever be in charge of animals.

But it's not just in the circus industry. That is in every case and in the human race as well.

It is, but we're talking about the circus, but it happens all over the world. But it doesn't happen here. We're not making a Bill for China, we're not making a Bill for east Russia, we're not making—. And there is no such evidence that any of that occurs here in the UK.

Okay. We've heard calls for a ban, not only to apply to the exhibition and performance of the animals, but also the keeping and travelling of the wild animals with the circuses. What are your views on that?

Well, they're so used to it, they don't mind it at all. And, in fact, the movement of it—. I'm not sure when you open, Carol, but the Jolly's Circus—they run from Thursday until Sunday, and then they move, and then they wait and open again on Thursday. But they're travelling, and I brought some information of their travel distance—their biggest travel is 20 miles. Sometimes, it's only 5 miles. They go from farmer's field to farmer's field to farmer's field. You get told that they go on car parks. Jolly's Circus never goes on a car park. They've got grazing stock. They want their animals to graze when they get there. They want a farmer's field. So, that whole concept—they're used to it, they've been born into it, and they love it.

Animals also like routine, and they like—. My animals are all used to each other. They all like to be in contact with each other and see each other, and it's all part of their normal, daily routine. To leave them behind, as they're saying, in their winter quarters, I don't think that would be correct for them.

Thank you. Finally from me: the Welsh Government intends to ban wild animals in travelling circuses on ethical grounds, but introduce a licensing scheme for other animal exhibits on welfare grounds. What's you view on the two approaches?

Why can't we be licensed for all of our animals? I don't believe, really, that my animals are wild—they're more exotic. Okay, they've passed away now, but my old zebras used to free range around the site. My new zebra that I've got lives out in one strand of electric fencing. I can't even keep my horses in one strand. He never has the electric on on the fence, he just respects the tape. Even if it was just a piece of string he would stay behind it. He gets access every day; he'll be out from 8 o'clock in the morning until literally up till showtime. Camels the same—okay, they don't quite respect the electric fencing as much as the zebra does, but they do stay in it.

09:40

It's much the same for Jolly's as well, because their grazing animal are out everywhere. In fact, you guys, the Welsh Assembly, when they were working up to their mobile animal exhibits, they did inspections on those circuses; they saw exactly where those animals graze and how it works. I have Peter Jolly's report, which I'm going to leave for you to look at. This was in 2016, and one of the people who came and told us that they asked circuses to do the inspections first because they thought it was going to be dreadful, and both the reports show that they thought it was great.

Good morning. I'm going to ask you some questions about the welfare of the animals, and I wonder if you'd just tell me initially what animals you have, other than the zebras and camels you've already mentioned.

Travelling with you—the ones that are deemed to be wild animals.

Okay. We've got two reindeer, two camels, one zebra.

Jolly's have two camels, two reindeer, one zebu, which is a little cow, this size—they never grow bigger than that. The reindeer—

How do the fox and the racoon come into it? I'm not sure.

They're deemed as wild animals. The fox is deemed as a wild animal, although that completely disproves non-indigenous to this country. But still, that was what it was, and Jolly's rolled with it and they've done all the right things with regard to it. And a racoon.

Thank you. Thank you for that information. Now, some of the evidence we've heard earlier from Born Free, RSPCA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals—they are arguing that the travelling circuses have to be cruel to the animals they're training because that is part of the training, and that's why you see a whip being used in the arena. I wondered if you could just give us your view on that assertion.

There definitely is no cruelty at either of the circuses.

Time. Patience. Treats.

Also, you start when they're very young. 

The reindeer, it gets led round in a halter. That's all the reindeer does. The two camels, they've learned to stand on a pedestal. They walk in, walk once round the circus ring, they stand on the pedestal, the zebra comes in—now he can walk, trot, whatever he prefers to do. He sometimes does a little jump, a skip, whatever he decides to do. He literally comes in, does a figure of eight, comes into the middle of the ring. Now, he always walks around quite chilled, and I let him do that because I think the people quite like seeing him doing his own thing. He's only wearing a halter, and then, when he knows it's the last lap, he usually runs, and then he'll come to me and I have a great big handful of pony nuts, and he eats the pony nuts, the lad comes and takes him out. 

So, how have you got him, the zebra, to train to do this figure of eight?

Time, patience, with somebody leading them in the beginning. They always say we're cruel, they say the animals are stressed. To be honest, if they were scared, and cruel—last week, for instance, we had this episode where the clown was blowing up the balloon in the back door, and if I'd been performing my horses, they would all scatter, because they like to spook at any opportunity. I had the two camels on the pedestal, the zebra was wandering around the ring—he'd just come in—the balloon went bang in the back door, which also made me jump, and I had no reaction from them. I think it's trust as well.

Also, the whip thing, this is what everybody says—'Why do they use a whip?' The word 'whip' is an old-fashioned circus word that—. Yes, years ago, they used to do the whip cracking and there still are whip-cracking acts, but it's nothing—

09:45

It's more of a guidance. 

It's like the extension of your hand. If you look in the circuses now, on the end of the whip, there's usually bits of string hanging, and it's just to catch the eye of the animal so that they can see where you want it to stand or to—

In my submission, I've asked for you to come and see us. You need to come and witness it for yourself and see for yourself what happens—any time of day, whenever you wish. 

You don't need to book, you just need to turn up. You can turn up secretly, get a ticket, come in and watch. And also, they say about this cruelty going on—when? The circuses are open to the public all day, until the late show has finished, and then they're all either put back in the fields, if it's nice weather, or into the stable tent, where they sleep. The people get washed and dressed and go to bed; when do they do it? They say 'It's done behind closed doors.' There are no closed doors on circuses. Come tomorrow. Come the next day. 

If animals were beaten and stuff like that, I don't believe that they would perform in the way my animals perform, because my animals feel comfortable around me. They would be scared, or going like this. An animal that's beaten all the time would be head-shied—or a dog—it would be cowering. 

Also, if you have a dog and you come home from work, you know how pleased your dog is to see you—tails wagging, 'Hello, Mum. Hello, Dad.' They're pleased to see you. When these animals in the circuses see the person who is looking after them, they do the same. Okay, they've got no tails to wag, but they come up and nuzzle and want to be part of you. They trust you, and they can only trust you if you're good to them. But if you go to some circus in China that is a bad circus, they won't do any of that. They will stand and not look. There's no eye contact. There's nothing. They're just waiting for the next command. None of that happens in the UK.

So, just to complete this question, are you aware that anybody's used the whip to chastise an animal in either your circus or in Jolly's circus?

Thank you. Other people have highlighted the poor conditions of the animals' winter quarters. What would you say to that?

I could e-mail some photos of the winter quarters. We also have been inspected by DEFRA's vets. I don't think professional DEFRA vets would come to our winter quarters and approve them if they were horrendous. 

I would say exactly the same for Jolly's as well. I've been to both several times and I've never seen anything poor. Sometimes, when the weather's really cold—. Jolly's had a situation where they had a very cold spell and they brought the animals into the barn at night, and that was the night that Animal Defenders International broke in. They made a hole in the outside fence, broke in, frightened the animals to death by entering their barn in the middle of the night. So, they all got up and were like, 'What's going on?' But they were all snuggled down asleep. And unfortunately, that got taken that they were being treated badly. It just isn't true. They were snuggled in because they wanted to keep warm, bodily warm, next to a friend—the pony, zebra, whatever's next to them—because it was such a cold night. 

Thank you for that. Going back to the DEFRA licensing system, could you just tell us what your experience has been of that—for travelling circuses using wild animals in England?

I think it was very good. It took us a while to get our head around it. We didn't think we weren't—. I don't know. We thought it was going to be an extra burden on us in the amount of paperwork and the amount of hoops we had to jump through, but once we got our heads around it, got it going, we didn't have any hassle with it. I personally think that it should have carried on. 

09:50

Paperwork. 

More inspections by vets, not that they required them; just for the paperwork, we needed to have them done, and inspections by DEFRA. But in the way of the welfare of the animals, our animal husbandry, no. 

I worked with DEFRA on this Bill, like I did on the animal welfare Bill with PAWSI, who have been advisers, just like the animal welfare people. I asked the DEFRA team at that time who were putting together this Bill if they would come to the circuses, and they did. They came, they saw everything, they looked at everything, and then we all sat down and we started to put the paperwork together. They put the main body of the paperwork together, and I and Julie Jolly put together the report system. DEFRA thought about what they needed, we thought about about what they needed. We thought some of the things they said were not applicable, and they thought some of the things we said were not applicable. In the end, we worked it all out. Over the first year, it was quite hard for the circuses to, actually, every day, somebody write something down—you know, 'water given to the camels, 10 o'clock', or whatever, but they got used to it. The circuses, actually, should be applauded for the effort they put in with regard to the records of the circus licensing Bill, because everything that was asked of them, they did.

There were some blips along the way; there were a couple of blips. The biggest problem with the licensing was that—. It's like now; the weather out there is dreadful. DEFRA wanted the circuses to report at least two weeks in advance the grounds they were going on. Now, sometimes when the circuses are out there, like Jolly's—this last site they were going to go to was flooded, so they couldn't go there. We buzzed around that with DEFRA, but DEFRA were saying, 'But we've got to know at least two weeks—'. Well, they couldn't, because they didn't know the night before, and I note Mondao had the same. So, we agreed a system whereby immediately when they knew that they couldn't go tomorrow to that site, they e-mailed DEFRA and told them, 'Cancel that, we're now going to Joe Bloggs's town' or wherever. So, there have been blips; there's no doubt about it. There have been little bits that have not—

Also, in 2015, we had some mock things. So, the mobile animal exhibits when we were here in Wales—

That was the inspections in 2016. 

No. For Wales, they came and did some mock things—

Yes, I know—that was 2016. 

Oh, was it? Okay. 

That's what I was talking about just now. It was very good of the Welsh Assembly to come, and they saw everything. They sat there, they could see everything, they saw the performance, and they sent us a copy of their report, which, at the time, I agreed with the people who were doing it that we wouldn't publicise until the Welsh Assembly decided what they were going to do, and we've never publicised it. We've never put it on social media. We've never said, 'Look what we've done'. We've never done any of that—neither circus. I've brought a copy of Jolly's for you today, and I'm sure Carol's got her copy should you need to look at them.  

Can I take you to the legal side of this now—the definitions that are in the Bill? If you could perhaps outline your concerns relating to these. First of all, the definition of a wild animal as set out in the Bill. Concerns have been expressed that this might be misinterpreted. Do you think that the meaning is sufficiently clear, or should there be a different kind of definition of 'animal'? One suggestion has been we should actually identify specific animals or breeds that are covered by the Bill, so there can be no doubt. You said in your evidence a minute ago you've only got zebras, reindeer and camels. You've only got 19 animals altogether, as I understand, affected by the Bill, so it should, actually, be quite easy to just be specific. What's your view on that? 

09:55

I think it's very difficult, because the animal welfare people have instilled in the public's mind that wild animals should go back the origin of where their lineages come from. Unfortunately, that's not the real world. The real world is that wild animals have been in human hands for centuries, whether it's a lion, a tiger or an elephant or a camel or whatever. So, I think 'wild' is misleading. I think it's—. To be honest, I don't know what you could replace it with, but I think it's misleading, because people then think 'Oh, Africa, and Asia—the elephant, you should be in Asia doing this.' But, of course, if you sent an elephant that's in the circus to Asia, it would die. There's no doubt about it. Within two to three weeks, it wouldn't know what to do, because it's always been given food by its owner, foraged and put out where it knows, talking to people, being with people, being with other elephants and relying on you. So, I think this is is a very difficult question and a very difficult problem, I think, this 'wild' animal problem. 

With regard to the animals they've got, they're not wild. What did we have two weeks ago? A lady killed by two dogs. You'd never get that in the circus. You just don't get it. It is not necessary to call a camel a wild animal, or a fox a wild animal, because it's not. Every animal, whether it's that little pussycat at home, whether it's an elephant in a zoo, an elephant in a circus, or a camel in a circus, has the potential to attack and misbehave. It doesn't matter what they're in; like your dog and cat at home, they all have the potential to misbehave. It is how they're brought up, how they're looked after, how they're guided, that governs how they behave. So, I think it's all nonsense. I think the wild animal thing should be thought out a bit more. 

You've suggested a different definition of 'exotic domestic animals'. 

So, you think that that would be—. If we need a phrase to cover the animals that the Bill is designed to protect, you would rather those words, rather than 'wild animals'. Or are we just talking about a distinction without a difference here?

Yes, but would they still get banned or not get banned? 

Yes, but I'm not a lawyer.

I would prefer that they weren't banned altogether. 

I realise that, but obviously we have to identify—if we're going to have a Bill that ultimately is going to be enacted, we have to be as clear as possible as to the subject matter that it's designed to cover. So, the definition is absolutely crucial to the working of the measure. 

Both Jolly's and PAWSI believe that 'exotics' would be discriminating against a small circus who wishes to have lions and tigers but nothing else, just the ordinary other stuff. So, they would be excluded if you call them 'exotics', and there is nothing wrong with lions and tigers. Personally, Rona Brown and PAWSI feel that the days of chimpanzees, elephants, rhinos, giraffes in circuses have long gone. First of all, they are the circuses that cannot provide the right stuff for them, the right equipment, the right enclosures. Lions and tigers are different. They are different. They do, and can be, accommodated in smaller places, and they do the same in the zoos, except they've got nowhere to play or think of things. Circus animals think it out, and they go through a performance, which they are taught, just like footballers are taught. Footballers don't run around the field anywhere, kicking the ball, and say, 'Oh, yes, that's a goal'; they aim at this little net at one end.

And when they moan about circuses jumping through hoops, that's what they're taught to do—they're taught to jump through a hoop, it's a guideline. Everything is governed by some sort of control on what they do, the same as footballers, or netball players, or cricketers. Horses, at show-jumping, they don't just run around—they go from this jump, to that jump, to that jump, to that jump. And the same with circus animals—that's exactly what they do, taught from when they're young, taught to work with the humans who care for them. Back in the wild, you couldn't take one animal out of the wild, and say, 'Okay, come on, jump through this'—it would terrify them. But these animals have been brought up from very young to do this, very gently, very calmly, and do it. So, I think the word 'wild' for animals that are in captivity is totally not true.

10:00

This is to Rona. You explain very eloquently what happens in the life of a lion or tiger that may or may not have been born into captivity, and how it knows no other life. But the whole discussion, really, is the fact that it ought to know another life—that it ought to not live in a confined space and be travelling around. I don't, I'm afraid to tell you, buy the example of a footballer, because a footballer then, after, goes and lives its life; a lion and a tiger wouldn't be living the normal life that you would expect. So, if we go back to the 'wild animal' definition, which is what we're talking about, it's animals that wouldn't—as I understand it—normally be domesticated. And I want to explore that further with you, because I don't agree with what you've said—that they would normally be domesticated.

First of all, going back to your first sentence, you said about lions and tigers that may or may not have come from the wild. There are no lions and tigers in captivity that have come from the wild in this day and age. There were 80, 90 years ago, but there are none now—not at all. And also it would be wrong, and everybody would agree that it would be wrong, to do that. With regard to the normal life, and the wild life, and what they ought to do, that's a human thought. These animals don't know any other life, they have no concept whatsoever of other life—they only have concept of what they're doing. Rightly or wrongly, 2,000 years ago, maybe they shouldn't have been brought to humans, but they have, and we're talking about the here and now, and we should talk about the truth, not what other people think they ought to do, because that's just in their mind. I have feelings about what people ought to do. I would say to my son, 'I don't think you ought to do that', but that's my opinion; if he wants to do it, he can. And then people say, 'Well, they have no choice'. They do have a choice, because you know if you've got an animal, and you take it into the ring, whether it's happy or not. If it's miserable from first off, then you don't work with it—you either find it a new home, or you just travel it with its mates so that it's happy. And with regard to retirement, circus animals still travel when they're retired, because that's what they know. And to take them away from that, to put them in some sanctuary or something, would absolutely terrify them. And that is cruel.

10:05

To summarise, your basic point is that all these animals are quasi-domesticated, if not domesticated, and the very concept of wild in this context is illusory. That's basically what you're saying there. That's a very interesting point. 

Yes. Sorry, I've said it in too many long words. I could have just said that. [Laughter.]

I'm sure that's why you're here.

My wife might disagree, but still.

Can we delve into the definition of travelling circus next, as in the Bill? The definition that the Bill contains, does that actually reflect the businesses that you have or are involved with as travelling circuses?

Yes, I would have thought so.

We are a travelling circus.

That's what the job is.

The spectrum of industries that you work in, Mrs Brown, using animals, are film, tv and theatre performances. The Welsh Government's intention is that these industries would not be captured under the proposed ban. So, how confident are you that the definition of travelling circus in the Bill would not include these industries?

I'm not confident at all, because circus animals are a huge resource to the film industry. Where are you going to get a lion? Now that we don't have any lions, where are you going to get a lion? Where can you get a lion that is happy to travel, used to lights, used to people, used to clapping, used to being moved from place to place, unless it's from the circus?

I did a movie here about six years ago called Flyboys, which was a story of a lion in the first world war that was brought up in a flying corps camp, and it was their mascot and they took it everywhere with them. I was fortunate enough to get a good lion from a circus and the circus owner who was its keeper and trainer. We worked on that movie in this country, and, again, we moved around because we were on location from one airfield to another airfield to another town to another town, just like circuses do. It was American financed, and £60 million came to the UK from that movie and was spent on our staff—not mine, but the film technicians, everything. They used local resources for everything. I brought the lion from the circus with the owner, and we had a vet travel with us the whole time. You couldn't do that now. It was a lion—I've got pictures for you I've brought that you can all see afterwards. There are no lions now that you can do that with. But if a small circus with lions came here, they would be valuable to the film industry.

Also, I've worked with zebras from Jolly's circus, taken them up in the lift, onto a film stage and worked them happily, because they're used to travel, they're used to being with people, they don't mind what's going on. They look around and say, 'This is new. Oh, well. Are you still with me? Yes. That's okay, then.' All this goes on. Where are you going to get that? You couldn't take one from the zoo. 

And I have another example with Peter Jolly's circus. There is an eye clinic that teaches eye veterinary medicine to students, and they go to Jolly's to learn how to examine the eyes of wild animals. 

I don't want to stop you, I just want to say to you and Members here that we're two thirds of the way through the amount of time we've got allocated and we've done somewhere under half the areas we wish to question.

I do apologise.

No, there's no need to apologise, it's just if we could shorten the questions and answers, we'll have a good chance of getting through everything. Jenny Rathbone.

Rona's already said that she thinks that leaving animals in a sanctuary would make them unhappy if they're used to travelling. What if we went ahead with a ban? What would happen to your animals, if we went ahead with a ban on performing?

10:10

On performing?

That wouldn’t stop them staying where they are.

So, would you leave them in winter quarters, or would you take them travelling?

I'd like to take them travelling. I'd like to keep it as natural as possible for them—to stay with what they've always been used to. The baby camel was born on the circus. The baby, he's five now. 

Jolly's would also travel theirs because they're part of their family. That's what they are, and the animals don't know anything else. To leave them stuck in the winter quarters—. Again, if you go to the winter quarters, when they see trucks coming, they're all excited because they know they're going somewhere new. 

Also, you would have to leave them behind with a member of the staff. For one member of the staff to stay just to be a guard over them while they're turned out wouldn't make sense, I don't think, really.

It would be unfair, because they need knowledgeable people around them.

My zebra was lame at the start of the year and he didn't work. He was on the circus, but he didn't work, and he actually showed signs of stress at show time, pacing up and down wanting to go and do his show, because he knew that was the routine at that time. The music would play and he'd be, 'I'm off to do my show.' And he wasn't able to work because his foot was lame.

They like routine. They like to do—.

Okay. Thank you. Others have suggested that animals could be transferred to animal sanctuaries or safari parks. What impact do you think that would have on the animals?

I think they're doing that just in the case of elephants so that they can claim more money from people. They would like our animals to be rescued by some sanctuary so the sanctuary can have it up in big letters: 'Animal rescued from the circus—donate.'

I want to ask, really, about the financial implications it would have on your business if this ban went through.

I think there would be a financial implication, but until it actually happens, who's to tell? Circus life is difficult in the way that we could come to this town this year and we could be full. Full is about 500 to 600 people; we're not a huge circus. We could come back to the very same site next year and nobody could turn up. And then we could go the next year, and people will turn up again. Sometimes we don’t know why the people come one week and, a year later, they don’t come when we’re on the same site, and then the following year they do come. We don’t know. We sometimes think, ‘Maybe it’s to do with politics. They’re scared of spending money.’ I don’t know.

Jolly's circus feel the same—it's an unknown factor at the moment.

So, moving on from that, if, let's say, Wales didn't have a ban, but we know that Scotland and England have already got a ban, how do you think that that might affect your business model as it currently exists?

We come to Wales every year. I think we'd still intend to come to Wales. It wouldn't change anything for us. 

Jolly's haven't been to Wales for a couple of years, but they used to. They used to only do Wales years ago. It's difficult to know, really, what to do because things are happening all the time. So, I think it's questions from, 'This might happen, or that might happen'. We don't know.  

Okay. I'm going to put another hypothetical to you. It has been suggested that your numbers might actually increase if you didn’t have animals, because people don’t want to see the animals. I remember what you said quite distinctly at the start—you actually said quite the opposite, which is that it is the case that, because you’ve got animals, people are coming. But, anyway, having said that, I’m asking the question the other way round. So, do you have any views on that?

Well, the only way you can judge it really is to see how the circuses with no animals are doing, and, quite frankly, they’re starving. People want to see animals in a circus.

Are you saying animals in general, or are you saying—?

Wild animals. Because you're saying 'animals' and I know that the people who are against us also are trying to push for a ban on all animals in Wales, as they've maybe got that opportunity at the moment to—. So—.

10:15

All we're doing is asking questions based on what other people have said to us, to get the full range. Llyr Gruffydd.

Yes. Thank you. Just following on, really, from those questions, would a ban on wild animals in travelling circuses mean that you would need to change your business model in any sense? Would you need to diversify, or—? Would it have an impact in that respect? 

No. We would still carry on as Circus Mondeo, and we would still have our domestics—

—that would be performing. We wouldn't go non-animal. No. We would rather close than go non-animal. 

Because we all—. All of my family feel that, without animals, we're not a circus.

So, what percentage of a show would normally be animal related and non-animal related?

In our show?

I suppose we've got about five animal acts in the show.

And is that sort of half and half in terms of performance time or—?

No, I would say it's a bit less than half, but it changes.

We've had some—

We've had some artists go home that do some really good acts—they've gone home early—and we've replaced them with a dog act. So, that will be interesting, because we've never had a small dog act before, in how many people are going to relate to that.

Okay. The intention is for this ban, if it does come into being, to commence on 1 December 2020, next year. Does that give you sufficient time to adapt or to prepare for any ban that might happen?

I don't want a ban.

Prepare? Who's prepared, you know? It's—.

There's nothing to prepare for. All you do is leave those animals out of the performance. They're still there. They're still out in the field.

Well, it depends on how they put the ban.

Well, that would really be discriminating against circuses, because other people go out and do exactly that, and you can't cherry-pick. But, anyway, that would be—. It wouldn't really make any difference, because the ponies and the other stuff—Jolly's have domestic cats that do a little act—they would just carry on. It would just take out the wild bits. 

So, the start date of a ban doesn't really affect you; it's the principle of a ban or not a ban.

Yes. We still would do our reindeer jobs, even if there is a ban. We would still keep the reindeer just do the reindeer jobs. And there's no stopping us doing the three wise men with the camels. So, they could still have a job, the animals, but not in a circus. Because, if the ban is only for a circus, it won't stop us doing anything else. 

So, what else would they be doing, just for me to understand?

The reindeer for Christmas.

Both circuses do that.

Oh, wise men. Yes, okay. Yes. We have so few wise men here, I wasn't—[Laughter.]

You wondered which three of us they were talking about. 

And it would be the same people who would be looking after them and caring for them and—

—really, the ban is—. Well, it's because it's on ethics; it's not on welfare or cruelty, you see, so—. So, the animals are still going to be being worked.

Performing.

Exactly. Performing. I don't want to—.

No, no. No, no. But these are the kinds of issues that we need to tease out, because it comes back to the unintended consequences of this kind of legislation, you see. Okay.

Jolly's have a different show from Mondeo, and their show is three quarters animals. And they—Jolly's show is aimed more at young children. They don't hire in acts. They don't hire in other animals, they just—. Well, they did when they went out first under this licence, but they don't anymore. So, it's a family show. Everybody in the family does a job with an animal, and three quarters of the show has an animal in it.

You mentioned young children there, and some of the evidence that we've received suggests that wild animals performing in circuses gives maybe young children, in particular, a negative impression of those animals, to see them out of their natural—not those individual animals, but that particular species—habitat. It's sort of—. Do you accept that that maybe creates some sort of impression among those young people that animals aren't wild animals, they are playthings or entertainment things that they can consider in that respect.

You could say that about zoos or the county shows or anything like that. The county shows have camel racing, they have birds of prey that they have on—

10:20

Ferret racing—all sorts.

Yes. And a lot of—I don't want to put it incorrectly, but a lot of people who come and view our circus don't have the funds to go to Africa on safari and see animals up close.

Yes, just on the offence side of it, if you accept that the legislation had gone through and been enacted, the Bill allows for three parts on the offence: one is about 'responsible person' and who that person would be if an offence was to be created or undertaken. So, would that be the owner or would that be someone else who has the title of responsible person in your mind? Because the legislation talks of either the owner or a responsible person would be the person held to account.

I don't think that's down to me to decide on that; that's down to politicians, lawyers—

That's why I'm asking for a comment, for—. I'm asking you to comment on the practical terms of it, because the Bill allows for that at the moment. Do you think that's a sensible way of identifying the person to prosecute in this instance?

And then there are powers of inspection, there are, contained within the Bill, and they're outlined within the Bill. Have you had any chance to see the powers of inspection as outlined in the Bill, and have you any comments on that?

Yes, just a few. I like the way DEFRA's doing it, with the inspections being done by species-specific DEFRA vets, who are all familiar—. And most of them are zoo vets anyway. And I think the powers on inspection have changed in England since the Bill came in, because people who go and complain and say, 'Oh, I didn't like the way that zebra was looking at me', and they phone the local council, and the local council send somebody along to investigate—. In the old days, the local council would call the RSPCA. They don't do that anymore; they call DEFRA or the Animal and Plant Health Agency now. And I think that's the right way forward. You can't have somebody who's against you inspect you. That's totally unfair.

No, it definitely needs to be professionals.

So, it has to be professional vets. And DEFRA have done it with professional vets who are not associated with the circuses at all. There's no conflict of interest. They come with open minds and inspect.

The other four inspections—because they get seven inspections, mandatory inspections, every year—. The other four inspections are done by other vets throughout the year. They have to do one every quarter. Now, that vet can be a vet where they're travelling, as long as it is somebody who is species- knowledgeable with what they're inspecting. And it works well.

Okay, thank you. And the final point is that, within the Bill, there's a section that says that animals could be seized if an offence has been committed. Do you believe that's a reasonable provision within the Bill?

Well, I think you can put anything you like in there, but it's never going to happen, because there'll be never any reason in the UK, if we've got regulations—. If you abandon them and let them all do anything they want, then you may get circuses that are not good, even if they're just travelling round with animals. But, if you have the regulations and they're tight like the British ones, it's never going to happen, because there's never going to be an incident where they're going to be seized, because they will never get a licence in the first place if they're of that mind.

Thank you. Are there any other comments you'd like to make to us before you finish?

Come and visit; come and see for yourselves. Send the experts to see for themselves.

Or anybody you like. Jolly's are open to anybody, any time.

If you could let us know where you are performing, then—

Unfortunately, we're quite far away—we're in Earby at the moment, near Skipton.

I think that the likelihood of us going there is remote.

But next year, hopefully, we'll be back in Wales.

Okay. So, if there is anything local, perhaps we would try and make a visit— probably as individuals. We all have a fairly busy time outside of committee meetings, and sometimes it's not always possible, but I think we'd all do our best to attend. Thank you very much for coming along and thank you very much for giving your—

Sorry, can I just say something quickly?

With regard to this gentleman who asked about moving the date forward, I think that would be really mean and nasty. That's all I wanted to say.

10:25

Thank you for having us.

Thank you for coming along and thank you for providing us with some interesting and thought-provoking comments. Thank you.

Thank you for having us.

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:25 a 10:41.

The meeting adjourned between 10:25 and 10:41.

10:40
3. Bil Anifeiliaid Gwyllt a Syrcasau (Cymru) - Sesiwn dystiolaeth 4
3. Wild Animals and Circuses (Wales) Bill - Evidence session 4

Good morning. Can I welcome Chris Barltrop, the former chair of the circus sub-group—the DEFRA circus working group—Thomas Chipperfield, animal trainer, and Giulia Corsini, doctor of veterinary medicine? If I got your name wrong, apologies. 

Chair, forgive me, may I speak for Giulia briefly? She's asked the committee secretary this: because she's Italian, she may not immediately understand a question. She may have to ask for it to be repeated. I'm saying that just to help her as support. 

I'm fairly certain her English will be substantially better than the Italian of anybody else in this room. [Laughter.]

Oh, thank you.

Thank you all very much for coming along. We're very grateful. If I can perhaps start off with the first set of questions: what are your views on the Welsh Government's proposed approach, which seeks to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses on ethical grounds? We've heard people say that making wild animals in travelling circuses perform for human entertainment raises problems with their dignity. 

I think that ethics is often a formal code, but it has its roots in personal opinion, and I think it's only fair to assume that Welsh people are quite capable of making their own personal opinion based on their own assessment of a situation. In a practical situation like this, I think—I hope—you'll accept that it's reasonable to do that. A code of ethics may be imposed from above or it may be evolved by an individual. I think, perhaps, if I can immediately go to the response of Welsh people to the animal circuses that come here, they seem, in large numbers, to be very much in favour, having been first-hand witnesses of how the animals are kept and treated there. So that, one hopes, may be viewed as a personal ethical choice by those people who like the circus, because they've seen it and approve.

Can I answer the same question about ethics? I think that an ethical approach is really interesting, and I think that is something that needs to be studied, because, on animals, there are different ethical approaches. One is the animal rights activist approach, which is against the human-animal relationship, because they describe it as slavery; and the other one is the welfare of animals approach. The welfare of animals approach is interested in the animals' feelings in a human environment. The welfare of animals approach is really important science, and the analysis of welfare science, because we have to evaluate how they feel in an objective way. And then there is also another approach, which is the conservation approach. So, it is really important, instead of putting the interest on the individual, like welfare or animal rights groups, you put the interest on the species to guarantee that they are not extinct, and also to the environment. And I think that is a really interesting and complex thing. And I think that animal welfare is something that can be discussed on the circus topic. 

10:45

From my perspective as an animal trainer in the twenty-first century, I would argue that the dignity of animals in the circus or in other performing environments is preserved to a great degree in terms of how the animals are presented. It's not how I personally would portray my animals to be subject of ridicule or as clowns, and it's not something that I've encountered in my travels around the world in seeing the way that circus animals are portrayed. I think that the circus community internationally has recognised this and taken a position on presenting the animals in a dignified way, as impressive spectacles of mother nature. 

I would like to just quote very quickly, with regard to the question of ethics regarding a ban, John Dineley, whose submission may not have made it onto your desks. He's a former zookeeper and manager at Chessington Zoo, an animal trainer with a long history of associating with circus animal trainers. He quotes Dr Kiley-Worthington, who carried out probably the most comprehensive study of animal welfare in circuses. To quote her directly: 

'there is no reason why circus training, any more than any other animal training, of its nature causes suffering and distress to the animals or should be considered ethically unacceptable'.

He then goes on to cite that,

'it should be pointed out that in her original research Dr Martha Kylie-Worthington did address the ethical implications of having animals in circuses. She spent a period of time with Professor Bernie Rollin, and other members of the Department of Philosophy at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, in the USA examining the ethical implications for having animals in circuses. She found no reason that from an ethical point of view animals should not remain in working in circuses.

I can then also refer to the testimony of Ron Beadle, who was here about a week ago. 

We had an hour with Professor Ron Beadle, and he did express views not dissimilar to the ones that you've expressed so far. 

I do think that the—

When I say you, I don't mean you personally, I mean you and the panel. 

That's okay. I do think that ethics cannot be divorced from the question of animal welfare, and in my own statement I cite a number of philosophers who take the same position, that science and animal welfare as a scientific pursuit can determine moral values, and I think that should be the lens through which we view this situation. 

Thank you. And Mr Chipperfield, can you expand on your assertion that banning the use of wild animals in travelling circuses but not in other settings would be in contravention of human rights law?

Well, through my readings, it appears to be discriminatory against the circus community on a purely arbitrary basis. It restricts the freedom to pursue employment in your profession or trade of choice, which I believe falls under the universal declaration of human rights. I'm afraid I don't have—. I have my submission here, but I don't want to waste your time scrambling through my papers. 

Thank you very much, and if it's a legal matter, I'm sure the lawyers would be very interested in getting involved in it. Jenny Rathbone. 

Thank you. The Welsh Government has referred to welfare concerns with regard to the travelling aspect of the animals' lifestyle in making an argument for banning wild animals in travelling circuses. So, what impact, in your experience, does travelling have on the animals' welfare?

No impact, I would argue. This is an element of their life they've been conditioned to accept as being the norm. Animals are quite malleable and quick to recognise either the threat to their well-being or the lack of a threat to their well-being rather quickly. We see this in the case of circuses where it's been studied in Germany, involving Martin Lacey Jr's animals, then, also, the amount of inspections that I and other animal trainers have had around the world by specialists vets, and there's been no indication from their reports that the animals are showing any signs of psychological trauma related to travelling.

We do actually see this as well in a number of other activities, in which we travel non-domesticated animals between their bases and county shows, and you could make the argument that because circus animals are travelled much more routinely, that it is far more the norm for them than animals used in other contexts. That's not to say that the other contexts are worse for the animals, in terms of how they travel them; that is just to say that it would apply logically that, with the frequency of their travelling and how they grow accustomed to it, it poses significantly less a welfare concern. 

10:50

Some of the charities who've given evidence earlier have said that the animals are bound to be affected by the noise, the fact that they've got to walk up a ramp, the actual travelling in a vehicle on a road, that that is bound to impact on their welfare.

What reassures, if I may compare, for example, I'm sure members of the committee have, or have had, contact with pets. If you take your pet dog for a walk in the countryside, it probably jumps in the back of the car to go there. The dog is used to that; he's not bothered about it. It's the same with circus animals. And, from many years' observation as a ringmaster and circus manager, not as a trainer personally, but from many years' observation, what reassures animals is familiarity. They're in a familiar place, nothing untoward happens to upset them, and if they're used to what is happening around them, and in virtually every case from their upbringing as tiny cubs, foals, whatever they are, whatever species they may be, this is the world they know and this is the routine they know; these are the people they know; these are the habits of their life, if you like, and so they're really not bothered about it.

The scientific evidence, of course, the studies—. I'm aware that you've been shown documentation from what you are referring to as the charities, but I would refer to as the animal rights groups, which makes other claims. But the basis of all the principal documents put forward by those groups has now been debunked by scientists who have made first-hand studies. None of those documents—. They all emanate from ex-Professor Harris and his work. He has now been, so it seems, asked to stand down by his university for the misleading claims he makes. And, so, all I'm trying to say there is that it's not wise to rely on that work. I have sent material that quotes the work of first-hand researchers, and this book here is one of them—if you haven't seen it, I'd be delighted to leave a copy for Members to look at. And that bears out that animals are fine, and indeed the Radford report—I was chairman of our group on the circus working group that DEFRA put together towards the Radford report—and that acknowledged that there's no problem with circus animals travelling because they're used to it. So, it's a matter of use. It does not distress them. 

A zoo animal, however, of the same species might be distressed, because it might only be put in a transporter two or three times in its life. It's very unfamiliar to it. A farm animal being taken somewhere—very unfamiliar, likely to be stressful. It's not for circus animals. They box very readily; they're not bothered.

Sorry, if I may—

Yes, I was going to ask which one of you wanted to go next. 

Sorry, I would like to while this is fresh in my mind. In anticipation of a potential objection to Chris's statement about dogs and domestic animals, I didn't want it to be said that the difference between dogs and lions, or tigers or zebras, is an issue of domestication. We have actually seen instances of transportation anxiety in domesticated animals, which can be remedied through conditioning to get the animals used to being transported, as Chris has just said. And then back to your point about what the animal rights groups say has to lead to detrimental effects to their well-being. I think you did say 'has to', or words to that effect. That suggests—that's supposition. And then also I would argue that the burden of proof is on them to present compelling evidence to support their claim. As it stands, the circus community has presented very compelling evidence to support its position.

10:55

I'm sorry. So, there are three authors who did field studies on this subject, on circuses, who are: Ted Friend, who has already been discussed, Nevill and Toscano. Basically, they are saying this, and also they reported that there are anticipatory movements that are related to the excitement of travelling. And they said that it's important, the fact that they are used to the travel. As a vet, I do confirm, as Thomas has said, the fact that animals need to get used to it. Then I need to cite the reviews done by Stephen Harris, because, as you know, Ted Friend and other scientists who did field studies have told us that he misinterpreted their studies. Stephen Harris also made some mistakes, because he quoted on transportation examples that are not really, how can I say, right for the context. Because if you are taking, for example, badgers that have been captured from the wild, it is different because they are not used to being handled, and they are not used to the travel. And then also, he did another example, if I remember—

Can I just interrupt you to say that I don't think anybody has produced any evidence that wild animals are being captured and used in circuses? They're all born in captivity.

What I was saying is that he was talking—. Because there are few studies on circuses, he said in all his reviews that he would use other studies on other animals' situation. So, he took in that case wild animals that are not related to circus to show that transport makes them stressed. So it's not really right to put that in the context, because there is not the habituation of the transport.

Not wanting to speak too much for Dr Corsini, I think to simplify it would be to call it a false equivalency.

Okay. I've got that. One of the other allegations made by the animal rights witnesses we've heard from is that, in order to get animals to perform in the circus, the training necessarily involves some form of cruelty, and that's why—for example, the use of whips being cracked in the ring. They're asserting that, therefore, the whip is being used in training to get the animal to jump over the hoop, or whatever it might be.

Okay. Well, very briefly, addressing the point on the whip, when a whip is being cracked, it's breaking the sound barrier in the air; a whip doesn't crack when it makes contact with an animal. So, I think that's all that needs to be said on the issue of the whips.

But, no, it is fundamentally untrue that animals have to be trained using brutal or cruel methods in order to gain their co-operation. The amount of study and research into this field, going from the time of B.F. Skinner, who codified operant conditioning, which is the foundational basis on which animal training is based, to his students Breland and Breland, who expanded on his studies in terms of training both wild and domestic animals for husbandry purposes in zoos to demonstrate their cognitive abilities—they even assisted in the training of circus animals in the United States—there is a very long history of academic material to support the idea that you don't have to use cruel training methods to gain an animal's co-operation. And there are even writings dating back to the fourth century, an instruction manual, as it were, on how to train horses, which was written by Xenophon, a student of Socrates.

Okay. So, are whips used in the training of animals in circuses in this country?

Whips are used, yes, but not in the context that is being—

11:00

No, no, no. It is, as was previously said, an extension of the trainer and his or her limbs. It is to maintain contact and for cueing in the same way that a lunging whip would be used to exercise a horse or the use of blunt spurs in terms of applying precise, controlled and measured pressure when cueing horses to perform various behaviours. To go deeper into the allegation, I can argue that, aside from the ethical problem that presents of using cruelty to train animals for co-operation, it's also not sustainable because the animals will resist after time and they will become aware of the limitations of the trainer, especially animals that are significantly bigger or even stronger. 

I can actually cite—I believe it was Jane Goodall, of all people. She cited an observation she made amongst chimpanzees, where the hierarchies with the more benevolent patriarchs and leader figures were able to stay in power for longer than the malevolent figures—the less kind, gentle leaders. This is something that has a continuity across all species, where animals will respond positively to a leader figure who will treat them with a degree of dignity and respect. Then, I would like to add one more point. The assertion that necessary cruelty is involved in animal training—this touches on Michael Gerson's 'soft bigotry of low expectations', in which the animals are portrayed as not being intelligent enough to respond to benign stimuli, if that makes any sense.

Okay. Thank you for that information. I want to just move on to the Welsh Government's proposal to ban wild animals in travelling circuses on ethical grounds, but introducing a licensing scheme for other animal exhibits on welfare grounds—for example, reindeer at Christmas shows or whatever it might be. I wondered if you could give us your views on these different approaches.

If I may, yes. When we had the DEFRA circus working group, it was the circus people who asked for regulation to be imposed. An earlier suggestion from DEFRA had been, 'Oh you can self-regulate', but the position we've been put in by constant badgering from the animal rights groups, with a constant presentation of claims—it's very difficult for the circus people to get their side into the media. The media don't seem to want to give us any space at all. Two sentences in a couple of pages is my common experience. So, we said, 'Because of that situation, we won't have credibility with the public if we self-regulate. Please regulate us.' They said, 'Are you sure?', and we said, 'Yes, please, because they're somebody else's rules and we'll have to conform with them.'

The regulation system that was set up and is, sadly, about to expire because of the English ban forthcoming has been very, very effective. And if I refer you to that on the DEFRA website, there were a couple of tiny glitches in the first three or four years—I'm told by the people concerned that they were really on paperwork and not on any physical problem—and in the last two or three years, the whole record is absolutely blameless. It's 100 per cent perfect. And that is in the light of several very strict inspections per year at winter quarters, on the road, including a surprise visit. So, welfare standards—it's perfectly viable to impose welfare standards. Those inspections have not cost the public a penny, because the circuses pay for them. So, there is no public expense attached to that regulatory regime, but it has proved that the circuses are—I hesitate to use the word 'impeccable'; anybody can be found out and say, 'Yes, yes, but—'. That's not what I'm trying to say. But they have a very high standard indeed, and they've proved it and they continue to prove it every day. So, it's perfectly viable to do that rather than say, 'Let's ban it'. 

So, Mr Chipperfield, what's your experience of the DEFRA licensing scheme?

Would I be able to address the previous question very briefly?

I would view the inconsistent approach of banning the use of wild animals in travelling circuses and the licensing of the use of wild animals in other activities as being—and I say this risking the use of inflammatory wording—discriminatory, because these are practices that are fundamentally identical from the perspective of the animal. So, that is what I would have to say on that.

Then, regarding my own experiences with the DEFRA circus licensing regime, this is somewhat a chequered experience. I came back to the UK from Ireland, where I lived, worked and was raised, to take part in the circus licensing under Peter Jolly’s circus who already held a licence. Every inspection I had there was deemed satisfactory in terms of animal welfare. There were some instances regarding glitches and blips in terms of documentation. I was also reprimanded for withholding the pool for my tigers during the winter period, which I was—

11:05

The pool—the bathing pool for my tigers during the winter period, which I was entitled to do, because the purpose of the pool is for the tigers to thermoregulate, and access to a pool in the winter season can only be a risk to their well-being. It says in the licensing guidance notes that I am entitled to do that, but I was told that the pool had to be present at all times. So, that was one issue.

Then I was commended by the inspectors for the progress I was making in terms training the animals—this was husbandry training—to allow the scanning of their microchips for individual identification, which in itself is quite an invasive procedure, because you have to locate the microchip, which is traditionally placed between the shoulder blades of the animal, meaning you have to get over the top of them. This requires a very long training process to get the animals comfortable with this position, which would be instinctively submissive to my position of dominance. I was commended by the vets in my progress with that, but the circus licensing panel weren’t satisfied with the progress made, contrary to the reports of the vets.

I was then, in 2015, told that my enclosure sizes—specifically my night dens—were only half the size that they should be for the amount of animals I held, contrary to the five previous inspections I’d had under the licensing whilst with Peter Jolly’s circus, and no explanation was given why this position had changed. It has not been explained to this day. I then went about constructing a new enclosure. When I did, I applied for a licence to operate my own circus with wild animals again, and it was refused on the basis that I was deemed unreliable, again contrary to the findings of the inspector who actually commended my attention to detail in terms of documentation and also the welfare of the animals. So, whilst I am for a licensing regime to be brought in to guarantee the welfare of the animals, I can’t say that I feel my experience with the DEFRA circus licensing system was proportionate to my practice.

Thank you for that. Can we just ask Giulia if she has any comment on the earlier question, which was about banning wild animals in travelling circuses on ethical grounds and having a licensing scheme on welfare grounds for animals being used in other circumstances?

I think that, talking about the welfare, it was discussed about the operant conditioning. I’ll explain what it is. It basically means that you have to give a treat to an animal to convince him to do an exercise. When I did my activity on the banking of various work, I did ask to see with my eyes how the circus is managed, and I did ask to participate in the training to see that with my eyes. This was before I did my articles, because I didn’t want to eventually defend the realities that maybe were not respecting the welfare just because there are few scientific studies. So, they showed me how it is done. Basically, there are these long sticks, and you put the treat, which is a piece of meat, on the end, and you are guiding the animal to do the exercise. The animal then learns the process. The treat is different, because, for example, what they used, the family where I was—they used, as a treat, red meat, as opposed to giving white meat. So, they were really interested in the red meat and they were prone to do that exercise. And they were really excited to do the exercise, the adult animals, because of the treat. It's like a game. The kind of training is like the same that there is for dogs. You give the treat to the dogs; the treat is different. The Valero family explained to me that there are some animals that are more prone to human contact, so they like cuddles; and then there are other animals that are more food orientated, so they have to understand the preference of the animal in order to train them better.

11:10

If I may, sorry, I would like to ask for the Chair's permission to rewind to the previous question. I did leave out one crucial detail.

Certainly. We're after information. We're not trying to catch you out; we just want you to give us information and to help us with our study.

I do apologise to the committee. I would like to add, regarding my experience with DEFRA's circus licensing—I do feel it is important to add that, as of this year, I am actually covered, and I'm a holder of a licence under DEFRA's own Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities. Involving Animals) (England) Regulations 2018, which permits me to use domestic animals in the circus and permits me to use all of my animals—wild and domestic—on film sets, county shows and other live events. Under this licence, I can legally—as unusual as this may sound, I would be permitted to take my lions to a county show in England, to put up my tent, to put on a circus-style presentation, and that would be lawful. But DEFRA's refusal to grant me a licence under their separate licensing regime stops me from actually operating my own travelling circus. So, the difference is that I'm being denied the opportunity to operate my own travelling circus as a business as opposed to a trainer of animals.

Could you just tell us what animals you have in your menagerie—the non-domestic ones?

In my collection, the non-domesticated include two male African lions, a male tiger of potentially mixed sub-species, then a couple of barn owls, foxes, a number of parrots, a number of invertebrates and rabbits—to what degree you can call them domesticated or wild is hard to say, really; I believe that rabbits would come under domestication, to some degree or another—and also, then, reptiles, snakes and lizards.

And at the moment, you go to shows, or do you take some of these animals into children's nurseries and things like that?

We are licensed to engage in those activities. Those are the kinds of activities we engage in—taking them to public spaces such as stalls in shopping centres. We tend to focus on the smaller animals that would be more suited to these environments, but, yes, also to care homes. Then, also, media projects, film sets, location shootings, and also we are permitted to carry out zoological activities on the same basis that licensed zoos do where, via private booking, a customer is allowed to come and have as a zoological experience with any number of our animals on a safe and controlled basis.

I'd like to come to some legal definitions in the Bill, if you can help us on that. The Bill provides that a wild animal is an animal of a kind that's not commonly domesticated in the British isles, but the evidence that we've heard this morning from those who were here first, and the evidence you're giving now, is that domestication is not a black-and-white issue; it's a question of degree. It seems animals that are born in captivity—

I'd agree that it's a question of degree. All the animals, certainly in current circuses, are bred, many generations, as captive animals, and so the life they live is the life that they know. There is a certain amount of selection, because if a cub's behaviour—. I think I'm right in saying, Thomas, that you assess the cub, and if it's not suitable, then you would have to say, 'Well, this one will have to go to a safari park' or something like that, you know, because it's not of the right temperament. So, you are selecting, but, above all, you're bringing the animal up in, let's call it, a captive environment, that's the life it knows and that's the beginning of domestication. Indeed, I think there are changes within the animal even from that first generation—within the animal's psyche and perhaps it's physical make-up. So, it will be true to say that you have to selectively breed animals for many, many generations to make them ultimately domesticated, and even then you probably wouldn't want to bring a lion and tiger into the house as you might a dog evolved from a wolf. Nonetheless, the process of domestication is far more complicated than just saying, 'Well, it's eighth great-grandparent was a wild animal,' because it's at least that long back now. So, it is quite a complicated issue, yes, indeed.

I think some of it as well, if I may, is just terminology. Camels are domesticated in every other country of the world. So, I think it's just a bit of a quirk of legal status in Britain. There is no such thing as a wild reindeer; a reindeer is a domesticated species, and there's an anomaly in the definition here. I understand that a reindeer in a circus is classed as a wild animal, but you or I, if we chose, could go and buy one and have it in our back garden—no licence, no inspections, nothing. It's a domesticated animal. So, those anomalies also need to be cleared up. Those animals—obviously not the big cats, but the animals on Circus Mondao and on Jolly's Circus—are kept just as equine species are. So, they're out to graze, they're tethered and put in paddocks, and so forth. They're treated as equines would be, so there's no physical difficulty with them, and I think that labelling of them is somewhat misleading. I'd like to see that changed, to be honest; I don't think it's necessary.

11:15

Before I give the floor to Dr Corsini, who is much closer to the data than me or Mr Baltrop, I just would like to add one or two small points to that. The term 'not normally domesticated' in Great Britain can be potentially problematic for certain breeds such, as the Menorquin horse, which is native to Spain, and, as far as I'm aware, there are no breeders of this breed of horse in the UK. That would then, under that definition, classify it as a wild animal, and that's simply not the case.

Then I would like to add further that—and Dr Corsini will expand on this—'wild' is a very open term, it would seem. I think it's fair to say that the majority of circus animals have lost qualities that would be crucial to their survival in the wild through what actually could be considered a form of mild domestication. Now, I would like for everyone to listen to Dr Corsini's presentation on this matter, because, as I said, she's far closer to the data than me or Mr Baltrop.

So, I was curious about the term 'domestication', when you define that an animal is wild and when domesticated. Therefore, I decided to interview an expert on animal domestication, and that is Greger Larson, director of the palaeogenomics and bio-archaeology research network at the University of Oxford. He explained to me that there is a problem related to the term 'domestication', because domestication is—this is a really interesting subject—a complex and non-directional process. There are a lot of grades to it. He said that, depending on the term, because there are different kinds of terms, an animal can fall in a category or in another category, and he gave the example of zoo animals. He said that, basically, considering that they might live in the zoo environment for a long period of time or generation, and every aspect of their life is controlled, like reproduction, feeding and all the aspects of their lives, they could be considered domesticated for some definitions. Then he said that, basically, some kinds of animals might be different to their wild counterparts, because, to be able to reproduce in captivity, there might be a biological shift.

Therefore, I think that the term—. I know that it is decided in a kind of arbitrary way. We know that there are some limits. For example, dogs are domesticated—we are sure about that. And we know that animals that live in the wild are wild, and then there is this grey area. I think that, with the help of some experts on the domestication subject, it could be decided, together with them, and discussed which animals could be considered wild or domesticated, because it's an interesting and complex argument, whether there is something that can be done.

And then there are some other things—that wildness or naturalness are not related to welfare. This is something that is interesting, written in 'Naturalness and Animal Welfare' by James Yeates and the RSPCA, a study that was published in the journal Animals in 2018. Basically it is saying that, for example, naturalness doesn't imply welfare. For example, it wouldn’t be natural to give an animal a painkiller. Welfare is more oriented on the feeling of the animal, not on recreating what the wild counterpart was doing.

11:20

So, basically you are saying there are wild animals and domesticated animals, and then there are circus animals, which are neither wholly one nor the other.

It's a grey zone.

So, it would be better, therefore, if we're going to have a definition in the Bill, to be specific about different animals—you've got a list and you know whether it's covered or not covered.

If I may, I think the middle ground is not solely circus animals. It can also include birds of prey used in falconry shows, to a certain degree, as well as to a certain extent zoo animals that are selectively bred for desirable qualities in terms of physiology. Whilst this is to preserve the health of the animal, this is still done through artificial selection, which is the process by which domestication occurs. This was documented in the works of Dmitry Belyayev, a zoologist in Russia, involving his domestication of foxes.

Back to the point, though, of naturalness and welfare, if I may add something, it could be deemed perfectly natural—actually, it is perfectly natural—specifically for male lions to fight over the right to mate with females and then to subsequently kill the cubs of the defeated male in order to encourage the females into oestrus so that his genes may pass on. Now, if any circus animal trainer or zookeeper or anyone keeping lions in the context of human care were to allow that natural behaviour to occur, they would have failed in their duties as custodians of those animals.

And with predatory animals—predation.

Yes, that is another issue as well. The natural behaviour that is seen in the predator-prey relationship is not something that can be implemented in any environment where wild animals are kept in human care because of the ethical dilemma it poses when you release a prey animal into an enclosure with a predator, because of the lack of opportunity for the prey animal to escape, for which there is a high potential in the wild.

Again, if I may come in, Chair, still on this, I think, Mr Hamilton, you have raised a wider issue, which is almost about whether animals should be in captivity. I remember my father sent me a cutting from The Times—goodness me, it's 45 years ago—a letter by Elspeth Huxley, a member of the famous scientific-zoological family, who was a director of the London zoo at that time, and she pointed out that because of the state that humans have got the world in, we either now have captive animals or we have no animals at all. That said, again from my long observation, I would rather see an animal in a circus where it's a working animal, it has something to think about, it has lots of activity—I believe that animal benefits from constant daily frequent contact with its two-legged partners, which I'm sure is how the animal views it—I'd rather see that than an animal in, certainly at that time, an old-fashioned zoo.

Circuses have adopted behavioural adaptations. We've accepted the advice of scientists. There are substitute things that you can do for animals so they can follow their natural behaviour even though they're not in what one might think of as their natural surroundings. So, it's perfectly viable to do that, and I'd rather see those animals there, and then the animals have a purpose in life, if you like, which is to maintain the species, letting people see them, and contact with animals is very positive. The circus going round, as long as the animals are very well looked after, is bringing people into contact with those animals and there's nothing that makes you appreciate an animal like meeting it face to face. I knew nothing about elephants until I met them. Blimey, they've got hairs and they've got different numbers of toes on the different species, and lots of other physiological differences, apart from making friends with them, which is lovely. So, to bring an animal to people, if you can do it in the right way—. It must only be done in the right way, but that's controllable, as we said, earlier, by very strict regulation and making sure that you impose rules subject to the advice of first-hand researchers, not of, I'm sorry, but I have to use the word, falsified documents put out by the animal rights groups to suit their own purposes—then, it's perfectly viable, and I think it's beneficial. It's beneficial as an art form, it's beneficial socially to people; it makes them appreciate animals. Perhaps that's drawing people's attention to the plight of those same species and others in the natural world, which we're destroying. And that's a positive.

11:25

I can add one final point to that, if I may, Chair.

To second Mr Barltrop's point about how circus animals can serve as ambassadors for their species in the wild, this was a point made by Steve Irwin and continues to be made by his widow and children to this day in terms of people's desire to experience animals in a very personal way and to witness their physical capabilities through demonstrations, such as training displays. 

You make your case very powerfully. Thank you very much for that. Can I just ask one more point—?

Neil, could I just follow up one point? Giulia, you said that we know that dogs are domesticated, that that is incontrovertible, yet we do unfortunately, occasionally, have dogs that make unprovoked attacks on humans. They haven't been prodded, or—. And therefore you can't truly describe all dogs as domesticated, can you?

I think that this kind of behaviour is not related to the domestication itself, because it depends also on how the animal is raised. It depends on the individual. There are different factors that do affect animal behaviour. One is the environment that they experience and their relationship with that, and also learning. That is really important. The other is also the individual. That means genetics and other kinds of features. 

I'm really sorry to keep taking the time, but I can add a very small point to that as an animal trainer, if I may. 

Certainly. We're here to receive evidence from you. I'm certainly not going to stop you saying anything. 

Thank you, Chair. I would like to add that I think it is a mistake to perceive random attacks that have taken place, where dogs have hurt their owners or people—. I don't think they are necessarily random; I just think that it is the case that the victims or the witnesses aren't aware of the underlying circumstances that may have provoked the animal into that behaviour. I think that is an important point to stress. I would stress that there is always an underlying cause of some sort; what that cause is is very much to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. 

I'd like to move to the definition of 'travelling circus' in the Bill, which is that a travelling circus means a circus that travels from one place to another for the purposes of providing entertainment at those places. Do you have any problems with that definition? I presume that it would cover your circus, would it?

Well, my presentation is focused on education. I wear a microphone and I talk about the biology and the behaviour of my animals, as well as explaining the training processes. So, from the point of optics and tradition, it can't be classed as a circus, but, just on the basis of there being a certain aspect of entertainment and then also the travelling aspect, there are a number of activities involving animals that can be classified as a circus by that very loose definition. So, I fear that that could pose a potential risk to the outlawing of other activities involving animals. I'm not sure if Mr Barltrop or Dr Corsini—

Like falconry.

Like falconry, again, yes. This is a trained behaviour. And whilst I'm aware that Mr Radford made a point that the difference between falconry and circuses is that falconry just utilise their natural behaviour and expand on it while circuses do not, I would contest that point greatly. I know that's not what we're talking about in this particular question, but the basis for the routine that my animals learn—it's based on their natural behaviours, such as walking, running, jumping, rolling over and in various positions of sitting. I would argue that all circus tricks that are behaviours are derivatives of those natural movements.  

11:30

I forwarded a PowerPoint slide show. Andrea, the committee secretary, kindly offered to circulate it to Members—I don't know if you've seen it—but the final frame on that is a set of tiny photographs, I'm afraid, which illustrate the natural behaviours of elephants. So, sitting up on a rock, sitting up in a circus ring, reaching up into a branch, standing on its back legs. They are simply natural movements that you can, by bringing the animal up in the right way, and by rewarding it—it's called positive reinforcement; you give it a titbit. Bertram Mills, circus proprietor of the 1930s and 1940s and 1950s, said you train horse by patience and carrots, and that's the way you do it—you take your time. Simply in human terms, if I were to be rude to you and tell you in a very rude way to leave the room, you might leave the room. If I said to you, 'Please, Mr Hamilton, would you mind leaving the room for a moment?', you'd be much more likely to co-operate—I'm not asking you to. [Laughter.] But you see what I mean? If you are nice to people, if you are nice to animals, as your example earlier points out—that's a proven study—it's much more likely to produce results. The animals' demeanour when one sees them at a circus shows that they like the people they're working with. So, you've got to get them on your side, but it is only—. Sorry, I'm rambling now off the subject, but it is a case of getting the animals to perform natural movements on a specific cue, that's all there is to it, and not to force them to do things that are unnatural; that certainly doesn't happen now.

Would Dr Corsini be given the opportunity to respond to this, if you have anything to add?

No, I don't have anything to add about this subject.

Okay, very well; I just didn't want to take up your time too much. 

I wanted to just ask you about what would happen to the animals in the event of a ban, because you've already spoken about the affection, the relationship between the trainer and the animal concerned. What impact do you think it would have if there was a ban on the performance of non-domesticated animals in circuses?

I realise this question is addressed to me, but if I can, I would like to pass it to Dr Corsini. I will respond following, but—

No, no, it's to all of you.

Okay, sorry. Apologies. 

When I started my investigation on the subject, I did read the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe report, and it was based on the Harris review. It was saying that, basically—this is what the Harris review in the end says, against the opinion of the field studies—it said that animal welfare is not met and the quality of life is not guaranteed. When a vet issues that quality of life is not guaranteed, it can be considered to put to sleep—the euthanasia of the animal—or to move them to sanctuaries. And my question is: have welfare studies been done on sanctuaries before moving them there? No. And the second is: is it fair to put this animal to sleep because of this review? I don't think so, honestly, especially because there are some circuses that are really well managed, and there is a really fascinating human-animal relationship. I did see circus people crying because of this.

Okay. The Bill as drafted would ban the use of the animals in performance, but wouldn't actually ban the travelling of animals with the circus.

How can you earn money to feed them? This is the point. If you cannot guarantee them to be fed and looked after, because it's necessary to earn money to look after them. So, I think that it would be problematic to keep animals without being able to look after them.

To follow Dr Corsini's point, whilst I would add there are other opportunities to generate income through using the animals that would then go back into their care, to a great degree, I would argue that it would present a number of challenges, because the opportunity a circus provides for economic means to look after the animals is consistent work, whereas media work and event work is on a contractual basis. So, unless you can get that relatively consistently, you would have to obtain means to fund the care of your animals elsewhere. I do have to question, though, the logic behind the banning of the presentation and performance of the animals, but not their transportation. If the concern about transporting wild animals in travelling circuses is the itinerant nature of circus, then I think the argument has defeated itself insomuch that it's being presented here and now, if that makes sense.

11:35

Again, I don't own any animals; I work with people who do. The circus people are fond of their animals, and, in many respects, especially in this day and age—. When I was a kid, there were three big circuses, and they were big businesses. They don't exist any more; the circuses are all pretty small now. And the circus people involved work with animals because they like animals, and they want to carry on with their way of life. And so, in a sense, it sort of reverses the situation. They go on having the animals because they like them, and running the circus is a way of funding going on working with the animals and protecting their own way of life. So, they're not going to want to give up the animals, nor—and this is the most important criterion—looked at from the animals' point of view, will the animals be happy if they were not in their familiar home. And travelling and changing site every week is part of their regular existence; that's what they're used to. Animals, by and large, are nomadic, and, actually, the circus way of life suits the animals very well. So, we're doing what they might like, if they were choosing, and I appreciate you can argue they're not choosing.

So, I think the circuses would, as much as possible, want to, as long as they're permitted, and that there is a way to permit it, hang on to their animals, keep them with them. I think I heard Carol MacManus earlier pointing out that there was a site they went to where they weren't allowed to take their camels with Circus Mondao; the camels had to be taken home. And although Carol's mum is there, and looks after them, obviously, they were distressed because they couldn't understand why they were there; it wasn't part of their regular routine—'Have we been abandoned? Where's the herd gone?' All the other animals are their herd. They're taken out of their context. That's not fair to the animal. So, I really think there has to be a way. I hope very much you'll choose to regulate and not ban, obviously, but, no matter what happens, I think it's really important that the animals are permitted to stay with the people they know and love, and the way of life they are used to, because that's what keeps them—you can't say 'happy', it's an animal, but that's what suits them, that's what they're used to.

Okay. And if they were left—. It it wasn't just the camels left in the winter quarters, but the whole herd, what impact would that have?

Well, then, you're still not following the routine that the animals have always been used to all their lives. So, you're still breaking that routine, and if one, these days, would deplore an animal being taken out of the wild because it's being taken out of its context, so the reverse must be true. That's their way of life that they've grown up with. We can say, 'Well, they haven't evolved to follow that way of life', but that's an anthropomorphism, that's us imposing what we think on them. Look at it from the animal's point of view—'Where do they live? What are they used to?' That's where they ought to stay for the duration of their natural lives. That's their home. Leave them in their home.

I'm not sure if Dr Corsini wants to add anything to this, but I think the fundamental issue is that, as a circus, through the various inspections that have been carried out by their vets, it's been proven to be legitimate from an animal welfare basis—the necessitation of leaving animals at the winter quarters only presents an unnecessary obstacle to ensuring their welfare needs, by the changing of their routine in a very controlled manner, to make sure that their welfare needs are met and kept at an appropriate level.

Thank you. We've now used up the whole of the time we had available to us. If no-one objects, I'm going to extend it for another quarter of an hour. Okay. And that takes us on to Joyce Watson.

I'm going to direct all these questions at Thomas, because they're all about your business, and you're the one that's in business. So, the first question is: if we have this ban in Wales, what financial implications would it have on your particular business?

11:40

Considerable, I would argue. As I've said previously, the opportunity for economic growth, in terms of my business, would be reduced drastically, because of the consistent nature of circus work, as opposed to the contractual basis that other activities operate on. That, I think, is the fundamental difference, so that the lack of opportunity to engage in regular work in that way would have a significantly negative impact on my business in that fashion, as well as—. I know this isn't the question put to me, but I have to stress this point—I think it's illiberal, personally.

Okay. So, it's happened in Scotland, it's happened in England. And if it didn't happen in Wales, would your business be viable?

Sorry—if it didn't happen?

Yes, because it's already happened in Scotland, it's already happened in England, so there's only Wales, and it's quite small—is your business viable by just operating in Wales?

I would believe so, yes. You could adapt the tour itinerary to operate for a shortened period of the year, and then engage in other activities in the meantime. I believe Giffords Circus, whilst they don't have wild animals, have a much shorter summer season than the other circuses that tour the UK, with or without animals. So, it would still present an opportunity for money to be made, in that sense.

And if I was to change that round, do you think that, by not using animals, your business might be more viable, given all the evidence that we've had, which is substantial, that people prefer to go to the circus that doesn't have animals?

Well, seeing as my skill is as an animal trainer, I don't think so, no. I'm not an artist who focuses on human skills—I do have a history of engaging in various human skills, but that is not my focus or my expertise. So, no, I don't think that is the case. And I think that can be demonstrated by the fact that, if you look at the circuses that tour the UK, whilst there are a considerable number of them, there aren't any that are on the scale of Chipperfield Circus, Bertram Mills, Billy Smart's, back in the day, or even Circus Krone, which operates to this day in Europe, Circus Charles Knie, Circo di Moira Orfei, which I worked in—all of them have wild animals, and they are quite significant units, in terms of their size, their audience capacity, the number of animals involved, and the number of staff they employ.

Okay. I just want to ask one final question, which isn't on the paper, but I'm going to ask it anyway. You were selective on your psychological studies of animal behaviour, because it's an area that I studied at degree level, so I know that you were selective, and I know that there are other views that oppose what you've said. But I'm going to put that aside. I just want it on the record that I'm quite aware of alternative views—

I would be happy for you to unpack that, if the Chair is happy with that.

Anyway, what I'm going to move on to is this, and it's a question we need an answer to: in terms of all the inspections that you've mentioned, and I have no doubt that, when it comes to animal inspections, the records speak for themselves, has there been any note taken of the practices that are used, and observations made thereof, in terms of training?

I'm sorry, can you repeat that once more?

Are there any inspections that happen? Because you claim—and I don't dispute it, I just want to verify it—that all the training methods are used by encouragement and kindness when your animals perform. Have there been independent witnesses that have verified what you're saying?

Well, as far as you can call DEFRA's inspectors, who are zoo vets, independent, I would say 'yes', because they have witnessed my training presentations and displays. But if I can go back to your previous point, I am concerned that you're saying that I've been selective with my interpretation of the data on animal behaviour. I am concerned that you've made that claim but you haven't elaborated on it. As I've said, it's—. I leave it to the discretion of the Chair to grant the time to unpack that, but you haven't justified that claim.

11:45

It might be helpful if Joyce Watson puts down her view on why those are selective and gives you an opportunity to respond to it in writing outside of this meeting, because we are really pushing time.