Agenda item - Review of the Animal Welfare Charter

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Agenda item

Review of the Animal Welfare Charter

Report of the Executive Director, Economy Environment & Culture (copy attached).


1)    That the Committee agree that the exemptions in the “Animal Welfare Charter”, in respect of performing animals in circuses, are kept in place.


18.1    The Committee considered a report of the Executive Director, Economy, Environment and Culture prepared in response to a petition which had been considered at Full Council in April 2017 and referred to the Committee for further consideration. The petition had requested that the Council ban animals from performing at circuses in the city.


18.2    It was explained that the Council had adopted an Animal Welfare Charter which set out the Council’s principles, values and policy on animal welfare standards including a policy relating to performing animals and circuses which provided that where it was lawful to do so, the Council would not allow land in its ownership to be used by circuses and other like enterprises of entertainment where caged and/or performing animals were used.


18.3    The Charter had been adopted taking into account the concerns of local people in respect of animal welfare and any cruel treatment, abuse or neglect of animals. The Charter exempted certain activities for instance, performances were allowed which involved equestrian acts, using only horses and ponies in circuses. Also the showing of birds, rabbits and other domestic animals. Attitudes to animal welfare and the ethics of using animals for performances had evolved and the report had considered therefore whether it would be appropriate to remove the existing exemptions.


18.4    The Chair, Councillor Robins stated that he had been notified of a proposed amendment by the Green Group. Councillors Druitt and Mac Cafferty stated that they considered that it was appropriate for the existing exemptions to be removed and for two additional recommendations to be added. The amendment was proposed by Councillor Druitt and seconded by Councillor Mac Cafferty in the following terms: (amendments/additions shown in bold italics)(wording to be removed in brackets)


            “2.1 That the Committee (agree that) agrees to undertake consultation on the proposal to remove the exemptions in the animal welfare charter, in respect of performing animals in circuses (are kept in place) in light of the unanimous vote of Full Council on 6 April 2017;


            2.2 That circuses visiting Brighton & Hove that continue to use performing animas are encouraged to review their policy; and


2.3 That a report is brought to Tourism, Development and Culture committee on whether fees for circuses with performing animals should be higher than fees for circuses without animals to account for the animal warden visits and the increased officer time responding to concerns by residents.”


18.5    Councillor Mac Cafferty stated that he was concerned that the report appeared to put forward a rationale for maintaining existing arrangements but did not appear to have rehearsed consideration of adopting an alternative approach as rigorously. It was explained that in advance of carrying out a consultation exercise officers had explored the position and had formed the view based on the advice given that to adopt any other policy than that currently in place could expose the authority legal challenge.


18.6    Councillor Mears asked for clarification of the process which was followed when Zippos circus applied for permission to use Hove Lawns. It was confirmed that rigorous conditions had to be met and that following grant of permission regular visits were made to ensure that any animals were properly housed and cared for.


18.7    Councillor Druitt asked whether officers were aware of any instances of circuses had made changes to their performances in order to comply with conditions which had been imposed locally. It was confirmed they were not.


18.8    Councillor Druitt referred to the legislative arrangements governing the use of performing animals in Wales and the legal adviser to the Committee, Hilary Woodward explained that those legislative arrangements were separate to those governing the remainder of the UK and were not therefore relevant to consideration of this report.


18.9    Councillor Cobb considered that there was a difference between the use of wild and domesticated animals and was satisfied that as the RSPCA considered the animals to be well kept that was this use was acceptable and that no further action was required.


18.10  Councillor Mears concurred stating that she was satisfied that the animals were well kept were not suffering from stress and that as an entertainment family’s should be able to make an informed decision as to whether or not to take their children along.


18.11  A vote was taken in respect of the proposed Green Group Amendment, which was lost on a vote of 6 to 3 with 1 abstention. Members then voted on the substantive recommendations as contained in the officer report.


18.12  RESOLVED – That the Committee agree that the exemptions in the “Animal Welfare Charter”, in respect of performing animals in circuses, are kept in place.

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