Spelman’s DEFRA big top is spinning out of control

Even by DEFRA’s standards, (not) banning circus animals has been a farce, writes shadow environment minister Gavin Shuker.

Gavin Shuker MP is the shadow environment minister

Even by DEFRA’s standards, (not) banning circus animals has been a farce. Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell and I do not agree on everything, but it was telling that his description of DEFRA yesterday as “the Department for error, failure and rotten administration”, was made from the government benches.

This is a department and a front bench team that have lurched from one shambolic policy to another in the 12 months since the coalition formed.

We’ve already seen secretary of state, Caroline Spelman, make a grovelling U-turn over the government’s forests policy – this time she didn’t even bother to show up, dispensing the hapless Jim Paice to answer an urgent question on the decision not to ban the use of wild animals in circuses, brought by Labour shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh.

The issue should have been concluded a long time ago. A public consultation (pdf) launched by the Labour government found that 94.5 per cent of the public supported a ban. That concluded in March 2010, and led to our manifesto commitment to ban wild animals in circuses.

Since then, the government has dithered and delayed, suggesting in answers to MPs that they were carefully deliberating while in fact the minister had not taken any meetings on the issue since July. Finally we had the answer: Spelman leaked to a Sunday paper that a ban would be introduced. Case closed, the government had done the right thing – or so we thought.

Less than a month later, and troubling news emerges of Number 10 overruling DEFRA despite the public support, and preventing a ban. Surely it couldn’t be worry over increased regulation? We all know the Tories love to cut ‘red tape’, but surely even they wouldn’t consider the protection of animals to be unnecessary?

The answer came last Thursday when Defra ministers said that the reason why no ban would be introduced was due to an ongoing case where the Austrian government had been taken to court over a breach of the EU Services Directive. They repeated this in a Written Ministerial Statement the following day.

You know the funny thing? There is no court case. Both the Austrian Constitutional Court and the European Court of Justice has confirmed that none exist. The European Circus Association brought a case to the European Commission over five years ago but it was dismissed, a decision upheld by the European Ombudsman last year.

The government tried to avoid scrutiny by issuing a second Written Ministerial Statement yesterday, in an effort “to avoid misunderstanding”. No apology of course. The reason they give for their error? They’d read a press release from the circuses! A fine way to determine policy. Of course it should come as no surprise that the press release in question was released almost two years ago and doesn’t actually say anything about forthcoming court proceedings.

Fast forward a couple of hours to Jim Paice’s answers yesterday. Still no apology – just more gibberish. He claimed a ban would infringe human rights, but Defra’s own impact assessment states that it wouldn’t. He claimed you’d need primary legislation, but again the impact assessment disagrees. I know this because I’ve got a hard copy of the document, but you won’t find it on Defra’s website. It appears to have been taken down overnight.

Incompetence or deception? Either way, someone needs to get a grip and implement the ban.

32 Responses to “Spelman’s DEFRA big top is spinning out of control”

  1. SERA

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spelman's DEFRA big top is spinning out of control: //bit.ly/jPeQEm writes shadow environment minister @GavinShuker

  2. Martin Tiedemann

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spelman's DEFRA big top is spinning out of control: //bit.ly/jPeQEm writes shadow environment minister @GavinShuker

  3. Co-operative Party

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spelman's DEFRA big top is spinning out of control: //bit.ly/jPeQEm writes shadow environment minister @GavinShuker

  4. SlashedUK

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spelman's DEFRA big top is spinning out of control: //bit.ly/jPeQEm writes shadow environment minister @GavinShuker

  5. anyleftiwonder

    Total incompetence followed by deception to cover up the incompetence !

  6. Tom Quinn

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spelman's DEFRA big top is spinning out of control //t.co/asBoCN5

  7. Till Sommer

    Highly amusing reading by @gavinshuker. This is what an opposition should be doing – holding Gov't to account //bit.ly/kXGYNn

  8. Mr. Sensible

    This government is just 1 long story of incompetene.

  9. Gavin Shuker

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spelman's DEFRA big top is spinning out of control: //bit.ly/jPeQEm writes shadow environment minister @GavinShuker

  10. Gavin Shuker

    Highly amusing reading by @gavinshuker. This is what an opposition should be doing – holding Gov't to account //bit.ly/kXGYNn

  11. Matthew Graham

    Highly amusing reading by @gavinshuker. This is what an opposition should be doing – holding Gov't to account //bit.ly/kXGYNn

  12. Plymouth City UNISON

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spelman's DEFRA big top is spinning out of control: //bit.ly/jPeQEm writes shadow environment minister @GavinShuker

  13. Martin Tiedemann

    Highly amusing reading by @gavinshuker. This is what an opposition should be doing – holding Gov't to account //bit.ly/kXGYNn

  14. Brian Dawson

    Highly amusing reading by @gavinshuker. This is what an opposition should be doing – holding Gov't to account //bit.ly/kXGYNn

  15. Gary McGuinness

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spelman's DEFRA big top is spinning out of control: //bit.ly/jPeQEm writes shadow environment minister @GavinShuker

  16. Gary McGuinness

    WNorfolk anti incinerator hopes pinned on her?? > RT Spelman's DEFRA big top is spinning out of control: //bit.ly/jPeQEm – @GavinShuker

  17. Andrew Pakes

    Govt incompetence over circus animal ban – good piece by @gavinshuker on @leftfootfwd //t.co/OPquT55 #Circusban

  18. Tweeted Times Top

    Spelman's DEFRA big top is spinning o…: //goo.gl/ZE0ks most discussed on @danhurlbut/politics (//goo.gl/HrPWt)

  19. Chris

    Tory failure on animal welfare is no surprise but another disgrace is that Labour did NOTHING about this issue in 13 years (yes 13),only bringing in a consultation which concluded a short while before the general election-an election it knew it was almost certainly not going to win. So Labour Ministers left Anne the elephant and other wild animals to suffer in British circuses from 1997 to 2010. In 1997 Labour promised ‘New Life for Animals’but its failure was huge,not only not banning wild animals in circuses but its active support of the bloodsport of shooting and associated snaring. Yes the party that claims to be progressive did not ban snares because it supports the barbaric gamebird industry. We were then lied to and stabbed in the back by Blair and his Minsiters who refused to do anything about enforcement of the Hunting Act. Let us not forget that the Labour party has within its ranks the chair of the Countryside Alliance bloodsports organisation (the awful Kate Hoey) and the President of the CA is also a Labour peer. We now learn that Ed Milibands favourite Peer Lord Glasman thinks there is nothing wrong with fox hunting.

  20. Laurence Turner

    Tory animal welfare policy is a mess; Gavin Shuker tears into DEFRA (ht @leftfootfwd) //t.co/9V1KKC6

  21. Penny

    Spelman’s DEFRA big top is spinning out of control //bit.ly/lpQ9Mf #circusban by @eftfootfwd

  22. CAPS

    Spelman’s DEFRA big top is spinning out of control //bit.ly/lpQ9Mf #circusban by @leftfootfwd

  23. kardinal69

    Spelman’s DEFRA big top is spinning out of control //bit.ly/lpQ9Mf #circusban by @leftfootfwd

  24. TRISHA

    Spelman’s DEFRA big top is spinning out of control //bit.ly/lpQ9Mf #circusban by @leftfootfwd

  25. Lara Parker

    RT @leftfootfwd: Spelman's DEFRA big top is spinning out of control //t.co/hEf8jlR

  26. VESS ISHIKAWA

    Spelman’s DEFRA big top is spinning out of control //bit.ly/lpQ9Mf #circusban by @leftfootfwd

  27. Chris Barltrop

    @MarkBorkowski re //bit.ly/jPeQEm Animal welfare? Political activism funding itself by ‘helping the poor animals’, a huge scam.

  28. Chris Barltrop

    Mr Shuker sneers at the ECA ‘press release’, but fails to acknowledge that almost all the misinformation given to politicians and the public is also in press releases, paid for with money begged from the public by parasitic campaign groups, the ‘animal welfare industry’. A political lobby group funded by a collective of those organisations has given millions to political parties, Labour far more than the others. This is not about animal welfare, it’s about political activism funding itself and gaining influence by ‘helping the poor animals’. It’s about destroying existing culture to replace it with a ‘designer version’ tailored to transfer power to a new political elite. Sadly, the new rulers won’t be taking any account of real people’s wishes, hence the planned destruction here of a part of genuinely popular culture. The underlying agenda is animal rights, a philosophy totally opposed to animal welfare. That AR agenda (read it on their own websites) demands that humans and animals never come together – no more farm animals or pets! Repeated studies and inspections conducted at circuses by neutral scientists and specialist vets confirm that overall standards of animal welfare are good. As with any other issue (heavy goods vehicles, MPs expenses) regulation is a sensible practical way to deal with the possibility of an individual misdemeanour. The suggestion of a ban is a hysterical over-reaction, and subscribes to hugely suspect philosophies.

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