Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru

Yn ôl i Chwilio

Y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, Amgylchedd a Materion Gwledig

Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee

10/10/2019

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Jenny Rathbone AC
Joyce Watson AC
Llyr Gruffydd AC
Mike Hedges AC Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Neil Hamilton AC

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Jackie Price Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government
Lesley Griffiths AC Gweinidog yr Amgylchedd, Ynni a Materion Gwledig
Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs
Richard Lewis Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government
Tom Henderson Llywodraeth Cymru
Welsh Government

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Andrea Storer Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy 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 the meeting? Are there any interests to declare? No. 

2. Sesiwn graffu gyda Gweinidog yr Amgylchedd, Ynni a Materion Gwledig ar y Bil Anifeiliaid Gwyllt a Syrcasau (Cymru)
2. Scrutiny session with the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs on the Wild Animals and Circuses Wales Bill

Can I welcome Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, and can I ask her to introduce her officials? 

Thank you. So, to my left is Jackie Price, who's the senior responsible officer for the Bill, and Tom Henderson, who's the Bill manager, and Richard Lewis, who is a lawyer. 

Thank you very much. Are you ready to go straight to questions? 

Some of the evidence from respondents in support of a ban focuses on welfare concerns, including alleged mistreatment of wild animals in travelling circuses. To what extent does this suggest that there are weaknesses within existing animal welfare legislation that would provide protection for the animals that need addressing? 

So, we have no evidence of mistreatment of animals. It's many years since there have been any prosecutions. There is significant legislation around this so one has to assume that, as there have been no breaches, the legislation is working. We've got the regulations, which means they have to adhere to very strict regulations and licensing matters. They are inspected unannounced several times a year, not only by their own vet, but also by APHA, the Animal and Plant Health Agency. So, we haven't got the evidence that those animals are being mistreated.  

And people have come to us and told us that there are welfare concerns around a range of commercial and sporting activities. National hunt racing was mentioned several times by one of the people coming here to give evidence, in terms of movement and the number of horses that end up being put down because they break their legs. Why have you chosen to prioritise legislation to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses, particularly given the scale of the issue?

This is obviously one specific area where we believe there should be a ban. This is where we consulted. I think it's really important that we stick to the issue at hand, we don't broaden the scope of the Bill; I think we just focus on this one issue. There's been overwhelming lobbying. Every time a travelling circus comes to Wales, my inbox is full of people who don't think it's acceptable in this day and age. 

Just following that argument, Professor Ron Beadle says that the numbers actually attending travelling circuses are far higher than the numbers actually complaining about—you know, responding to the consultation. 

I think, if I remember rightly, Circus Mondao have said that something like 20,000 people attended, which is a very small percentage of the Welsh population. I wouldn't be able to tell you how many people have written to me but, certainly, there were over 6,000 respondents to our consultation, and the overwhelming majority—I think it's 97 per cent—thought we should ban travelling circuses. I can see what you're saying about the number of people, but it's a very small percentage of the population, and I would imagine, of that 20,000, quite a significant number are probably children and young people who haven't made that decision to go to a circus. That decision has been made for them. 

That's, I'm sure, the case, but I think that—this is what Professor Beadle is arguing—if we're going to approach a Bill on ethics, there have got to be ethical grounds to warrant a target on these exotic animals, as opposed to either the other animals that are used in circuses or, indeed, the use of other animals in other ways. 

Obviously, the question of ethics—and we discussed this when I came to committee last time—it's a personal thing, isn't it? Ethics and morals are obviously somebody's opinion. England and Scotland—well, Scotland have obviously banned the use of wild animals in travelling circuses; England are about to do so. I made it very clear, when I came to committee last time, that we don't want Wales to be seen as a sanctuary for these circuses. So, if we didn't do the same as England and Scotland, I did have that concern. They've also done it on ethical grounds. Lots of countries throughout the world have done this on ethical grounds, and I personally think that, looking at the consultation responses, and my postbox, and the lobbying I've had from animal welfare organisations, from third sector organisations, this is the right thing to do. 

09:35

So, pursuing this ethical argument, what is the justification for pursuing this particular aspect of human beings' relationship with animals, as opposed to battery hens, pig farms, mega dairy farms—all these other relationships that we have with animals—where we seem perfectly content to exploit them in a much more intensive way than what is happening in a travelling circus?

So, I go back to one of my original answers. This is about a very specific issue that we have consulted on. There is a lot of other animal welfare legislation that covers a variety of different things. Mike suggested a couple of examples. You are now talking about farming, which, again, would not, obviously, come under this. I would not want to broaden the scope of this Bill any more than it is, because we just need to concentrate, I think, on this one area. This is complex enough. To broaden it, I think, would not be—

That's right, but that's why I'm struggling with this idea of banning it on ethical grounds. If there were animal welfare concerns, then, obviously, we'd need to respond. But there is concern, particularly amongst some of the witnesses we heard, that they're being picked on; that this is a very small activity; and that there are only two travelling circuses left in this country. They're licensed already by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and there haven't been any issues since the licensing. So, they're saying, well, on what grounds are we now pursuing banning them, given that they've complied with the law and have been found to maintain their animals in an appropriate state? 

So, I think there are a couple of points there. One, around the DEFRA licensing, the licensing that the two travelling circuses are currently licensed under—those regulations will expire at the end of January next year. Then, the UK Government's Bill will come into force. So, that's the first thing.

Around being picked on, I have had a couple of pieces of correspondence—you would expect me to—from people who are, obviously, circus owners and circus trainers. I don't agree with that. I think it is about acceptability and outdated practices. I think probably—. Certainly, as a child, I went to a circus. Forty, 50 years ago, it was something that people did. I don't think people now expect to see wild animals used, exhibited, displayed in that way anymore. And I think zoos—. I've had the 'Well, what about the zoos?' Zoos are very different. Again, there's different legislation, but, equally, they often have breeding programmes, for instance. They're looking at wild animals in a different way. I think the use and display of wild animals that we see in travelling circuses is now not, in the public's mind, if you look at the respondents to our consultation, acceptable. 

Okay. But if we look at the animals that we're talking about, all of which have been born in captivity—we're talking about zebras, reindeer, the odd camel—they're not the ones that, if they escaped, could pose a danger to human life. And, at the same time, we do nothing about people keeping lions and tigers in their front room if they so choose. 

Well, again, there is legislation around people keeping animals and tigers in their front room, and, again, I don't think it's a matter of being concerned if the animals escape. I think it is the public perception that it's an outdated practice to have wild animals in travelling circuses. 

Okay. So, where does it stop? Because these exotic animals are used in other contexts as well. We've heard evidence about racing camels in Scotland. Clearly, they were being toured because they were appearing at more than one venue. What about reindeers that turn up at festive events at the end of the year? What about exotic animals that are taken into nurseries to help children understand how you handle wild things, whether they're snakes, hamsters, guinea pigs or whatever?

09:40

So, Members will be aware that we're out to consultation at the moment on animal exhibits regulations. That consultation closes sometime next month. I can't remember the dates. I've got so many consultations at the moment. And then, obviously, we will look at what we bring forward. I don't want to pre-empt that consultation. So, we'll look then at what we capture in that consultation. But the example—certainly the camels, et cetera, and the reindeer—they will come under those regulations, which I hope to bring in in the next year.

Okay, but I think this legislation based on ethical grounds does lead us into difficult territory, because one of the witnesses argued that ethics were rooted in individual opinion, and that the public should be free to exercise their right to choose whether to visit travelling circuses using exotic animals. How do you respond to that?

I would not disagree with that. I think it is really difficult. I can't do it on welfare issues, because the evidence isn't there. The only avenue that's open is the ethical. We've seen it done, as I've mentioned, in Scotland and England, and we've seen it done in other countries. I absolutely agree: it is your own personal—. We all have different ethics; we all have different morals and we all have different opinions. However, I can only go by the consultation responses I've had. They were overwhelmingly in support of a ban on wild animals in travelling circuses. I repeat: England and Scotland. Scotland have already brought the legislation in; England are going to do so, and I do not want Wales to then become a sanctuary for these travelling circuses. If we didn't have the GB approach, then I would be really concerned.

So, the issue you consulted on about introducing a licensing or registration scheme for mobile animal exhibits in 2017—are you saying that that is no longer available to the Government?

No. That was the consultation and in that consultation, we asked the question, 'Do you think—?' We just took the opportunity to ask that question, because I think at that time, we were looking at whether we would perhaps go with the UK Government's Bill. And probably, with hindsight, which is a wonderful thing, had I realised how quickly that Bill would progress—it was a very, very quick Bill in the UK Government—perhaps we would have done that, because a lot of our legislation, our animal health and welfare legislation, does mirror England. So, perhaps I would have done that on reflection, but we did take the opportunity in that consultation to ask that specific question, and then decided to have our own Bill. So, the animal exhibits regulations that we're out to consultation on now—that's the second part.

Okay, but would it still be possible to consider a licensing or registration scheme such as exists already?

Well, no, I think we've chosen to do this now. This is the best vehicle.

Okay, fine. Right, I think you argue that people are able to familiarise themselves with wild animals or exotic animals in zoos, but half the residents in my constituency, in parts of it, don't have a car and their opportunity to go to a zoo is nil. So, it does deny people, particularly poorer members of the community, who have fewer opportunities to attend and be familiar with these animals in the wild. So, I just wondered if you'd considered that.

I suppose that wouldn't have been top of the considerations, and bearing in mind that travelling circuses tend to only go to certain parts of Wales, I don't think it's pan-Wales tours that we've seen. I'm trying to think now of the last itinerary that we saw from a circus. It's certainly not pan-Wales. I don't know if it comes to your constituency, for instance. It certainly doesn't come to mine.

I do think circuses have been superseded by very modern, well-established zoos. But, I appreciate, again, zoos aren't pan-Wales either. So, I wouldn't say that was a consideration, no.

09:45

Just going back to the welfare issues, in the letter you wrote to us in October, you said

'Many of the calls for a ban focus on the perceived animal welfare issues, and there is a strong body of opinion that the welfare needs of wild animals in travelling circuses cannot be met.'

Clearly, there's a large group of animal organisations that assert that their animal welfare can't be met in travelling circuses, but we heard other evidence from the circus community and experts who've worked with DEFRA that, in fact, they're happier travelling than they are in static zoos.

As I say, we haven't got the evidence that animals are mistreated—and I certainly would never, ever say that—in travelling circuses. So, that's why we could not bring a ban forward on welfare issues. So, I have to say that a lot of the correspondence that I do get is from members of the public who are concerned, particularly if there's a tour in Wales—that's when the correspondence goes up, which you would expect—and their view is that animals aren't cared for or aren't looked after, but we do not have the evidence for that, and I certainly wouldn't say that.

So, did the consultation extend to those who were attending circuses when it was live?

Anybody could, but that obviously means—. It requires considerable incentive and some people have quite a lot of difficulty navigating their way with the written word. So, it will be a particular group of people who will find it easy to respond to consultations, whereas the people who attend circuses, we haven't captured their opinions, have we?

Well, we could have done. They presumably could be part of the 3 per cent who didn't agree with us. I don't know whether we had specific campaigns like the RSPCA, I don't know whether they had, any of the welfare organisations—

We wouldn't have any way of being able to target those who actually attend circuses. The Minister has already said that less than 1 per cent of the Welsh population attended the Mondao circus, so we wouldn't have been able to target those people. And to start targeting individuals, and if we missed somebody out, then we would be criticised for that as well.

Yes. We were told in a previous session that ethics must be universal or they cease to be ethics. We can only legislate what we've got in front of us around that, I appreciate that, but do you accept that that's a principle that makes sense?

As I say, it's very personal, and we were saying, we looked at the definition of ethics yesterday—

Shall I tell you what that is?

I've looked at this, because, obviously, everybody around this table will have a different view on this and a different ethical approach to it. So, we're looking at the key moral principles here. Based on the consultation, where over 97 per cent of the consultees came back and said that they would support this ban, I believe that we are acting in a way that is consistent—

It's public opinion, but that's why we consult, to obtain public opinion.

—and that we are acting in a way that is consistent with what society and individuals typically think are good values. And we believe that that is what we are supporting here in this Bill.

The evidence we had suggested it wasn't. It's either an ethical matter or it's not. You can't be a little bit ethical, you know.

And you did say in previous evidence to us that the ethical justification for a ban on using wild animals in static circuses is much weaker than travelling circuses. Now, I understand why you would have said that, but surely that's an opinion not an ethical judgment.

Again it comes back to—. Because it's mailbag stuff, isn't it, really?

I mean, just because more people believe in something, it doesn't make it more or less ethical. That's just public opinion.

It is. And as Jackie said, we are doing this because that is the overall public opinion. So, you can—

Yes, but the basis of a ban isn't because it's public opinion, it's ethical.

So, there's a tension there, isn't there? And I'm really struggling to, sort of, square that.

09:50

And I've looked in great detail—we all have—at what particularly England and Scotland have done because they've done it so recently, and everybody seems to have struggled with it.

But shouldn't it extend then—? Shouldn't the ban extend to static circuses because—?

So, we don't have any static circuses, as you know, at the current time, but—

—obviously that doesn't mean that we won't in the future. But, again, keeping it—

So, we could be futureproofing. However, a static circus could then come within the animal exhibits regulations that we're bringing forward next year as well.

On an animal welfare basis? And this is where we get back to this, sort of, tension between ethics and animal welfare. Okay. So, is it unethical to make wild animals travel and live in temporary accommodation, then?

Is it unethical to make wild animals travel and live in temporary accommodation? Because that's the only difference, isn't it? 

It is, really, yes, because what we're saying is we're banning the use of wild animals in travelling circuses and, I think, in a previous evidence session with committee I was asked about what would happen—if we did bring the ban in—what would happen to the animals because they could still travel with—. You know, if circuses chose to just travel with them and not use them or display them or exhibit them—.

But that's the only difference between travelling circuses and static circuses. 

So, you're not banning the travel, you're just banning their use. So, should there not be a ban on using them in static circuses?

No. It's the way that they're used. That's the grounds for this, not the travel. But I can see what you're saying.

Could I just add, Minister? There are no static circuses. So, it's almost a bit of a moot point. There is no such thing as a static circus in Wales at the moment or—

—I'm not aware of any in the UK. If a business was to set up that called itself a static circus, it would, to all intents and purposes, be a zoo or another form of animal exhibit and then be subjected to those licensing requirements, which are about welfare, admittedly, of course they are. But the way those animals can be used, displayed and kept and the conditions of those licenses are very strict. So, the animals may or may not be able to be used in the same way. So, I think, with travelling circuses, it's the way the animals are used in those circuses. 

It's a matter of opinion.

Yes, but you're legislating on an ethical basis. So, you're not legislating on a matter of opinions, albeit you had these surveys and everything done; it's your decision that this is based on ethics, and now you're telling us, 'Well, that's a matter of opinion.' 

But that's the definition of 'use', though, isn't it, in these travelling circuses? The use of these animals is that they are being made, encouraged or cajoled into performing tricks, even if it's running around a ring with a Jack Russell on its back if it's a camel or whatever.

So, what about animals undertaking similar activities in other settings? I mean, we've heard evidence about animals being used for films and being trained to perform for films, et cetera. I mean, is that unethical?

So, I'll go back to an earlier answer: we don't want to broaden the scope of this Bill, and for all the other activities—and you've all come up with other examples of activities—there is different legislation that would capture those activities. 

Jenny Rathbone wants to come in here. Can I just say before that, when we say these things, all we are doing is repeating what people have come to us—? I would hate for what we've said here to be taken as our opinions on these things. All we've done is picked up the questions that have come from other people who have come to us. Jenny Rathbone.

Equally, racehorses are trained to do tricks. They are trained to either run very fast or jump over obstacles. Greyhounds are trained to run races. I have quite a lot of people writing to me about that. So, I think the concern that we're trying to probe here is, if we're looking at banning something on ethical grounds for one activity, where would it end? In the sense that there are lots of other activities where there are actually more concerns on animal welfare grounds, certainly with greyhound racing, than there are in travelling circuses. We haven't been able to get any concrete evidence that travelling circuses in this country, as opposed to abroad, which is not our remit, are actually in any way contravening the licensing arrangements established by DEFRA.

09:55

I agree with that, and, as I said all along, we haven't got any evidence about welfare issues. They are highly regulated, they have at least seven unannounced visits a year, so I am certainly not saying that. But, as I say, this is specifically about wild animals in travelling circuses, and I think that's—we've got to remember that's what we're dealing with here. So, Jenny has raised greyhounds, I think you raised camels, Mike raised—I think you said something about dogs—

I raised racehorses, which one of the people who came to us actually raised with us at least four times.

And Llyr gave me a different example again. But I can only look at this Bill. The way that we can ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses is on, we believe, ethical grounds, for the reasons I've stated. I'm not doing it on welfare issues, because there aren't any. We haven't got evidence of that. There have been no prosecutions for seven years, I think, now; we think, in the last 20 years, there have been two. All the other examples that you're giving me—you could be quite right; there are more concerns. We've just seen it now with puppy farms, haven't we, this week. There are lots of animal welfare issues that need addressing, and I would be the first to say that, but this is a specific question we asked. It's an area that's been legislated on in other places, and I can only keep repeating: I would not want Wales to be a sanctuary for travelling circuses. I know there are only two, but, if they're not welcome in two of three countries in Great Britain, then we have to take steps to do this.

You've just told us that the legislation was rushed through in England. One does wonder how properly they probed this issue of legislating on ethical grounds—

Okay, all right. I just—. My concern is that we are opening up a Pandora's box here based on public opinion, bearing in mind that the popular papers never stop telling us that popular opinion would be in favour of reintroducing hanging. Therefore, popular opinion is not the course I would wish to take my lead from. So, I just think that, by banning this activity on ethical grounds, we are opening up a Pandora's box to a whole series of other activities that can pose much more concern on animal welfare grounds than what is happening with travelling circuses.

Again, that's—. I wouldn't particularly disagree with it. I think there are certainly other areas we need to look at, and we are looking at them, and the animal exhibits regulations that I hope to bring forward next year are to improve welfare issues, and that is a specific welfare issue. I took the opportunity to ask that question—again, public perception—about banning wild animals from travelling circuses when I went out to consultation in 2017 because I knew that other countries were looking at it, and I wanted to ensure that we had the opportunity, if needed, to bring forward the legislation in Wales too. All I can repeat is that 97 per cent of those respondents agreed that banning the use of wild animals in travelling circuses would have, for example, a positive impact on the way that children and young people viewed wild animals. So, that's the reason we have this Bill. I don't think it's a vehicle to broaden it to include other things—I've had a letter the last couple of weeks asking me if I can ban goldfish as prizes in fairs in this piece of legislation, and the answer's 'no'. That doesn't mean to say that I wouldn't want to look at how we could do that. You have to draw the line somewhere, and I think that's what we've done at—

But, given that we've agreed that there are no animal welfare grounds for proceeding on this, I question whether we are targeting the wrong goal.

Well, my view is not, but I accept that that won't be the opinion of everybody.

Thank you. So, your Bill proposes to make it an offence if an animal performs or is exhibited in a travelling circus. Now, the Scottish Act makes it an offence if a wild animal performs, is exhibited or is displayed. So, why did you exclude that from Welsh legislation?

10:00

For me, 'exhibited' is the same as 'displayed'. I look at the lawyer—Richard. 

Why are they differentiated in the Scottish Bill, then? Or the Scottish Act. 

Probably because Scotland's was the first Bill to ban the use of wild animals for entertainment purposes in circuses. We've looked at it. We've decided that the two words are interchangeable, so we have drafted the Bill accordingly. 

So, under this proposed legislation in Wales, then, if a travelling circus continued to travel with their wild animals, albeit not to perform, if they were available for the public to see, and to view, that would be an offence. 

Oh, I'm sorry, Chair. I had intended to ask a few questions about—

Human rights. Indeed, yes. Yes. Thank you. Sorry. Because we have had evidence, or it's been suggested to us by people who've been before committee, that limiting the plan to wild animals in travelling circuses discriminates against a minority group—i.e. those people who travel with the circuses—under the Equality Act 2010. How do you respond to that?

No. I don't believe it is at all. I don't think they're a minority group. We've obviously had an equality impact assessment. That's been completed, so, no, I don't agree. 

Okay. So, a ban on wild—. They've also suggested that a ban on wild animals in circuses, but not in other settings, would contravene the Human Rights Act 1998. You wouldn't agree with that. 

Thank you, Chair. Before I come to my questions, I'd just like to ask a couple that have been prompted by things that have been said. You mentioned goldfish a moment ago, and, as a result of a very interesting conversation I had last week with Joyce about this, which was not an issue that I'd ever really considered before, I think there are actually significant animal welfare considerations in relation to the sale of goldfish in fairs and so on, fundamentally because the people who buy them have no idea how to look after them, and 90 per cent of them or more probably die within a very short time. So, shouldn't we really be considering issues where there are real animal welfare considerations, rather than a Bill that is obviously so narrowly drawn as this one, affecting so few animals and based upon subjective criteria?

I don't disagree with you. As I said, I've—. So, I've been in this post now three and a half years, and I think the goldfish question has only recently come to my attention. I don't know why. I don't know whether there's been a sudden, I don't know, giving of prizes—

There was a newspaper article. There was a newspaper article from the Barry Times. 

Okay. There we go. There was a newspaper article in the Barry Times. I thought Jackie would know.

And then, suddenly—. It's right—you just get one or two, and then, suddenly, you get an influx, so you know that something's happened. And I've asked officials to have a look at it, but I have had somebody ask a specific question of me as to whether I could do that within this Bill; obviously, I can't. But what I was trying to explain was that there are lots of animal welfare issues. Puppy farming is obviously an animal welfare issue that's really come to the fore in the last couple of weeks. So, my—. I'm sure everybody's postbag as an AM has suddenly got an influx of correspondence about puppy farming. So, just because we're doing this—. Animal welfare concerns me greatly. I'm very privileged to be in this position, and I've been able to bring forward regulations and legislation and different outcomes in relation to a lot of animal welfare issues. But I do agree with you that we need to look at the giving of goldfish, because, certainly, if you think about the longevity, and I'm ashamed to say that I probably had them from fairs when I was little—because we did, didn't we? And that's what I'm saying; things have changed, and public opinion's changed about this. 

Just on this, and I don't want to expand it, and yes, I did raise it, and I've got goldfish that are 22 and 23 years old, so they're probably going to outlive me. But the point is more serious than that. They are travelling and they are kept in conditions that are clearly wrong for them, but where do they come from is another aspect, really. So, I'm not asking you to include it in this Bill, but there's the wider question of the acceptability of pets as prizes, and I think that that's a big, big issue, because, as has been said by Neil, people don't know how to look after them, but the whole idea that you can give a pet as a prize, as far as I'm concerned, is an ethical issue. So, I'll just ask you, just to put it on the table for now, for you to certainly look at it. Goldfish are the example, but I'm sure they're not the only one.

10:05

Just on that point, you're absolutely right, and the whole issue isn't about goldfish, you're right—pets as prizes, and that's the term that we've used, and officials are looking at that for me, because I did wonder if it could fit under the animal exhibits regulations that we're going to, hopefully, bring forward next year, and it doesn't. So, it will be a separate piece of work. 

The other question that I was prompted to ask was in relation to your not wanting Wales to be a sanctuary for travelling circuses with wild animals. As Wales has only 3 million out of 65 million of the UK population, and it won't be possible to take wild animals in travelling circuses in Scotland and England, is it very likely that this is a problem you're going to have to face? We talked about moot points a moment ago in other contexts. As a justification for the Bill, it doesn't seem to me to be terribly strong. It's very unlikely that you will have any travelling circuses with wild animals at all after England and Scotland have completed their bans.  

So, when we decided to bring this Bill forward, as I say, the UK Government were thinking of introducing it in England. Scotland were ahead and, obviously, Scotland brought in their Act last year. So, I suppose if England hadn't have done it—. I was obviously still concerned. As I say, England's Bill did progress much, much quicker than we originally anticipated.  

Okay, that's fine. I'm going to the questions I've been designated to ask now, and they are in relation to the meaning of 'wild animal' within the Bill. The evidence that we have received from Circus Mondao and others is that there are no wild animals in travelling circuses today in any meaningful sense. In fact, we heard that there are only reindeer, camel and zebra, fundamentally, all of which are domesticated in certain countries in other parts of the world. They're not domesticated in Great Britain, obviously, because these animals are not indigenous to our country but, in the Arab world, for example, camels are clearly domesticated animals. Is this a sensible classification for the animals that are going to be covered by it?  

Yes, I think it is. I think the definition of 'wild animal' is—. The definition we use is the definition that's in the Zoo Licensing Act 1981. You wouldn't want it to be different—you wouldn't want the definition of a 'wild animal' to be different in a circus or a zoo; I think you need to have an equity between those. So, that's the definition that we use, and you're quite right—you know, you wouldn't keep a zebra in your front room in this country. So, that's the definition—

It depends on the size of your front room, I suppose. [Laughter.] But these animals are all born and bred in captivity; they've known no other life. They haven't known a life in the wild. That's the evidence that we've received. 

So, that's the life they're used to, is the essence of the argument that has been put to us. 

Yes, but, again, it's the use of the wild animals in the traveling circuses that the—. You asked about the meaning or the definition of a 'wild animal'. That's the definition that we use. 

There is no definition in the Bill of specific animals; you just rely upon this term 'wild animal'. We know that the species involved here you can count the number of on one hand. And I know you obviously want to provide against the possibility of other animals being used in these circumstances, but I'm wondering whether you did give any consideration to actually specifying breeds or species of animals, rather than this global definition. 

We did look at it, but I think we decided it would be too big. Am I right, Tom? 

Yes, I think it would be unpractical, which is why we've gone with a definition that is consistent with the zoo licensing Act, consistent with the Scottish Act, with the English Act, and also consistent with the licensing regulations for circuses, which expire in January. So, it's a consistent definition across Great Britain. 

Couldn't you have done it the other way round? Couldn't you have just identified what the domestic animals were, and anything that wasn't on the domestic list would, by definition, be wild?  

10:10

I think what we can do in guidance is include something similar to what they have in the guidance to the Zoo Licensing Act 1981, which lists types of animals, rather than specific species, but groups and types of animals that could be considered 'domesticated' or 'wild' under the legislation. 

Thank you. And will you be taking scientific advice for making any regulations in relation to the meaning of 'wild animal', and do you intend to consult on any such regulations?

I think the definitions within the Bill will be sufficient. Obviously, we've got powers to make subordinate legislation in the Bill. They're discretionary; no plans to use those at present, but I suppose, if we did want to use the powers, we could seek expert advice if we thought that was required. 

Thank you. Next, I'd just like to move to the meaning of 'travelling circus' within section 4 in the Bill. We received evidence to suggest that further clarity is needed about the interplay between the Bill and the proposed animal exhibits licensing scheme. What's the legal distinction between a travelling circus that uses animals and a mobile animal exhibit?

So, I think this isn't clear cut, but what we're doing is—what we're proposing to do is—to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses. I suppose a travelling circus is a mobile animal exhibit, as you say, so this—. As I say, the Act is making a ban on the activity that we think is ethically unacceptable. So, the activity is to use those animals. Again, we're going to produce really detailed guidance to accompany the introduction of the Act. That will assist inspectors; it will assist the circuses themselves and any other animal exhibits; and it will set out very clearly what types of activity are banned in travelling circuses. 

Well, we'll await that with bated breath, then. [Laughter.] And, lastly, concern has been raised with us that, under the terms of the Bill, travelling circuses could rebrand as educational shows and exhibit wild animals in other settings in order to circumvent the provisions of the Bill and the ban. Do you intend to do anything to prevent or discourage such a rebranding, and does the Bill provide you with a mechanism for doing so?

So, if that were to happen, that then would fall under the animal exhibits regulations. So, again, they would have to apply for a licence under those regulations, and then it would be up to the local authority if that came within the definition of that animal exhibit, and it would be up to them if they provided a licence. 

Moving on, is it likely that the requirements for a licence would prevent the circus from keeping animals with them whilst touring, so that the only difference from now to the future would be that the animals would not be exhibited, but they would actually tour? And, is there not a danger that, if they're touring, and they're not allowed to be exhibited, all that would happen to them is they'd have to be kept in less good conditions than they are now?

So, this was raised with me when I came last time, why they would still be allowed to keep them. But I go back to my answer to Neil—it's about banning the activity of use. So, there are other regulations and licensing issues if they wanted to do that. 

We've talked about the zebras, we've talked about the reindeer, we've talked about the camels, but we've been told that foxes and raccoons, for example, are taken around. They are not dangerous animals; they are animals that circuses do tour with. Would they still be caught up in this?

You're right. Those species aren't captured by the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, so they would be protected by animal welfare regulations. There is no specific licensing required to keep a fox or a raccoon, for example. 

No, because it's a wild animal. 

So, they wouldn't be picked up on welfare grounds, but they would be picked up under the Act.

Okay. That's all. Thank you very much. I move on to Joyce Watson. 

10:15

Moving on to enforcement and powers of inspection, we received evidence calling for the enforcement powers to be extended so that an inspector could seize a wild animal to prevent reoccurrence of the offence. Have you considered that?

We think that the penalties that are proposed in the Bill are proportionate. Obviously, the Bill empowers courts to impose an unlimited fine. Because the offence isn't linked to animal cruelty—it's linked to use—we don't think—. If somebody was found guilty of using a wild animal in the way that we're trying to ban, it would be very obvious, and I don't think they would repeat it, because it's so much in the public domain they wouldn't be able to do that. So, we haven't considered that, because we think that the powers suggested in the Bill are proportionate.

So, just to be clear here: if it's not captured in this Bill, but is regarded as—. If an animal was found to be in a situation where it was considered cruel, would that be captured by other legislation that's currently in force?

—those concerns that we've had. We also note that in terms of the appointed inspector to examine, measure or test an animal and to take samples from those animals, it doesn't require that that's carried out by a veterinary professional. But the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and draft regulations for the new animal exhibits licence scheme include more detailed provisions around the appointment of inspectors to ensure that they're suitably qualified. So, some people have argued—witnesses have testified—that they do feel that that needs to be strengthened.

Yes, I think you questioned me on this last time—why it wasn't specifically a veterinary surgeon. It could be a zoological specialist, for instance. As you say, it could be a local authority enforcement officer. So, that is something that we committed to looking at, going forward.

If I could add, Minister, also the local authority inspectors—there's a provision within the Bill that allows them to take on to the premises other persons and equipment that they may need in their duties and that could include, as the Minister has suggested, a veterinary inspector or zoological specialist. So, there is that power there for them to take experts on, should they feel they need to.

Okay. It's just that, in the comparable Scottish Act, they've included powers of inspection for police constables. So, I'll leave that on the table. You've said you're going away to consider it. And we've mentioned the Scottish Act quite a few times today, so it's an obvious question—there is a difference.

Yes. So, we did look specifically at police, and we didn't anticipate that police officers would be involved in the enforcement of this legislation; it would be the local authority enforcement officers. But, of course, if a local authority enforcement officer wanted to bring the police in, then they would be able to do so, but we certainly did look at that and, as you say, in the Scottish Bill I think it says police constable—

Just on enforcement, we were scrutinising legislation here on puppy farming a few years ago, and we were assured that enforcement would be effective and there'd be no point legislating if it wasn't properly enforced. I don't want you to give similar assurances, because that sounds a bit underwhelming, but clearly there's a risk, isn't there, that, if this legislation isn't properly enforced, then it's just a piece of paper?

I think, in relation to this piece of legalisation, it would be so publicly obvious if a wild animal was being used or exhibited or in a cage outside, whatever, that I do think I can offer that assurance. But I absolutely take your point on puppy farming in light of what we've just learned.

What are the implications for the welfare of the animals then, which, obviously, when they arrive at a new venue, they're then put out to grass? If they can't be exhibited or displayed, are they then going to be forced to be not in view, and does that mean that they will then be kept in a cage, when, at the moment, the zebra and the reindeer are all running around in the field?

10:20

They'll be able to be in a field. What we're saying is they couldn't be in a cage outside the big top.

I understand that, but let's just drill down deep into—you said 'exhibited' captures 'displayed'. But, if they're, you know—

When they're travelling with the circus, they need to be allowed to run around like any other animal. If they're then captured by this 'can't be displayed', surely that has major implications for their welfare?

Yes, potentially, it would, particularly for grazing animals, and that would be covered under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. So, if grazing animals, for example, had no access to the outdoors to graze, then potentially, yes, they'd be in breach of animal welfare regulations. So, that would be a call for the circus to make as to whether they think they can fulfil the welfare requirements of those animals if they still take them on tour, but don't display them because they won't be allowed to. 

Okay, so what you're saying is they wouldn't be allowed to put them out to grass on the day before the circus was due to take place.

It comes down to interpretation, I think. 

Yes, I appreciate that. If they're out to grass next to the big top, then arguably that could be a form of promoting the circus.

This is quite a big issue now, because clearly they go to a site, they hire a field, and they hire some pasture next to it, I'd imagine. If a banned wild animal is grazing in the field next to the site of the circus, then when is something exhibited or not exhibited? That's the question, really, isn't it? Are we clear on that? Because that could be a minefield, couldn't it?

When circuses come to town, they announce it quite widely, don't they? There are posters everywhere, and, if they use pictures of the wild animals with that poster to suggest, 'Come to our circus—you will see all of this', then that is in breach of this Bill. But, we wouldn't want to compromise the welfare of those animals if they need to be grazing. And, as Tom says, they would have to ensure that, when they come to a specific site, they've got an area—and it could be part of the licensing conditions that you have to identify an area, maybe away from where the big top is, to allow these animals to demonstrate their five freedoms.

'Maybe away from'—so, there is a grey area there. It's open to individuals to interpret whether it's appropriate or not. And then, all of a sudden, it ends up in court.

But, also, can I just say that you did say then that if they advertise the animals—but surely that would put them in breach of the trade descriptions Act?

Yes, but I think also, just coming back to Jackie's point about licensing, I guess then it would be the local authority enforcement officer that would make a judgment on that.

I appreciate, when the circus industry was here giving you evidence, that they said they would continue to travel with their animals. But, realistically, why would they transport large animals like zebra and camels with them if there's no commercial purpose to doing it, when they do have a home base where they could leave those animals?

But, in the costings for the Bill, you have not included costings for accommodation for those animals other than they continue to travel. So, you've made that decision, effectively, as well, haven't you?

I just think that argument doesn't hold much water. It's no different to somebody insisting on having a dog in a top-floor flat or keeping a dog when they're homeless, because they are attached to that animal and that's why they continue to do that in circumstances that other people might think were less than optimal. So, that is why it is likely the travelling circuses will want to take their animals with them, because they are attached to them. Leaving them behind, and certainly putting them in a zoo, in some of the comments they've given us, is very unlikely.

I think we accept—. We appreciate that and we accept it, but we just don't know what they're going to do with those animals, given that, from January next year, it's going to be banned in England. So, I would assume that any decision about the future of their animals has probably already been made. But we just don't know. 

But have you then thought of some sort of interim arrangements? Given that the number of animals we're talking about is very small and obviously they have a natural life span—you know, that there might be some dispensation for the animals currently registered as being part of these travelling circuses, so that they can continue to live out the lives that they've become used to, which includes looking forward to doing the performances, by the descriptions that the people who run these circuses have given us.

10:25

I think the difficulty is we don't know how old these animals are to begin with. I do know that a Bactrian camel was born in Aberystwyth a couple of years ago, and I think Bactrian camels can live for 40 or 50 years. So, is it a case that we wait that long before we—[Interruption.]

Joyce Watson's got a number of questions on the future of animals following the ban, so perhaps this will be reached.

First of all, I want to ask about the practical and legislative measures that you intend to put in place to mitigate the detrimental effects—and some have been mentioned—of the ban on individual circus animals.

As Tom said, it's up to the owners to decide what they want to do with their animals. I think Jenny makes a very important point—that they are part of their families. But, because other countries have gone before us, I would imagine that those sorts of decisions will have already been taken. So, it's their prerogative if they want to use their animals in a different way. As long as they do it within the law, it's entirely up to them.

It's not just about dealing with the individual wild animals that are in circuses now; it's about preventing future use of wild animals, too. We don't know what their decisions are going to be, but the fact that this has been—. I forget when Scotland first introduced their Bill—was it 2016 or 2017?

No, it became an Act in 2018, didn't it? I think there have been a few years when they've obviously had to think about that. I know I've been asked could they continue to use their animals until the end of their lives, but, as Tom said, we know that this particular camel was born—I thought it was about four or five years ago—in Aberystwyth and they can live to be 50. So, that sort of time delay is completely unacceptable.

I want to just give you a hypothetical here. If, as we know, circuses can keep their animals and they can travel around with them, but the same people told us that those animals are used for other exhibits, like film for example, or anything else for that matter, how are you going to separate out the fact that, whilst they're not performing in a big top, they travel with the circus and are being used for performance in another domain? I think that's a problem area that hasn't necessarily been explored, because they're doing absolutely everything that we're trying to mitigate, by all the means currently available to them, but being used for the exact same purpose in the exact same way but given a different arena. 

There will be different legislation. I mean, the film industry, I think, put into the consultation responses because they were concerned about that, because some of them, obviously, go to travelling circuses for their animals. So, that would come under the animal exhibits regulations, and so there would be different licensing in relation to that. And the same for—I think you just mentioned—reindeer at Christmas time being used in garden centres, for instance. So, that would come under different legislation.

At the moment, there are the animal exhibits—I forget the whole title—regulations in England that finish on 30 or 31 January next year. That's why I need to bring in our own animal exhibits regulations, and that's out to consultation—

—at the minute, and then we'll hopefully bring it through next year.

Yes. We've had a lot of correspondence about that consultation. I think a number of people involved with agricultural shows and dog shows are very concerned. I don't know if it's appropriate whether you could signal that your intention is not to capture those kinds of activities.

Absolutely. I've just written, I think it was yesterday or the day before, to the chief executive of the Kennel Club, because, clearly, that was the impression.

10:30

Yes, wrongly—that we were going to include dog shows, and we're not.

On dog shows, I think that it would be helpful if the letter you sent to the Kennel Club was made more generally available—I would say to members of this committee, as far as I can say, but you may consider that all Members may have an interest in it.

I think it is there, isn't it, in the literature around the regulations and the consultation, but I think a lot of people haven't gone as far as looking at some of the associated documents; they've just looked at the consultation.

I'm not clear how the Kennel Club came to that conclusion, but, as I say, I wrote either Tuesday or Wednesday.

The message is very clear, and I wrote either yesterday or the day before, and I will put a copy in the library.

So, back to the Bill, sorry. Some of the stakeholders have called for the commencement date of December of next year to be brought forward. It's something we've mentioned in passing previously. I'm just wondering what practical implications that might have—whether it's possible, or whether it's desirable. What do you think?

I think it's certainly possible. I think it probably depends on this committee and the Assembly and the legislation timetable. I certainly think it's possible. The reason, I think, we came forward with that date was because of the calendar of touring circuses. They tend to tour March to November, so that was the plan. We didn't really want to bring in the ban whilst they were touring, but I suppose it depends, because, obviously, Scotland's ban is there, England's comes in at the end of January, so it could be that things are different anyway. So, it's certainly possible, and I think we need to see how it plays out next year, but the reason we brought the December date was so that the touring season had finished.

Anybody else got any questions that we haven't covered? Jenny Rathbone.

Just for the record, Professor Ron Beadle raised some considerable concerns about the Harris review and the methodology used, and I just wondered if you were aware of these claims before the report was published, as Ted Friend has been mentioned—

So, the Harris review was before my time, but I can assure you I am aware of it. I've had quite a few people's opinions, which they're obviously entitled to. But, clearly, the Harris review was on welfare grounds—it was about welfare—and this Bill is on ethics, not welfare. So, it's immaterial, really, in relation to the Bill.

Okay, that led to my next question, which is to what extent this report should be relied upon as evidence to support the ban.

Thank you very much. Can I thank the Minister and her officials for coming along this morning and answering our questions? As you know, we'll be producing a report at the end of this. So, thank you, all, very much.

3. Papurau i’w nodi
3. Papers to note

I'd like to move on to some papers to note: update from the Minister for Economy and Transport to the committee's report on the Welsh Government's draft budget; correspondence from Chris Barltrop on the Wild Animals and Circuses (Wales) Bill; correspondence from Circus Mondao on the Wild Animals and Circuses (Wales) Bill; correspondence from PAWSI on the Wild Animals and Circuses (Wales) Bill; and  correspondence from Rachael Smith on the Wild Animals and Circuses (Wales) Bill. Does anybody want to raise anything on any of those items?

I do, Chair. I note that I've been accused of being a biased member of the committee, and also accused of a personal attack when challenging witnesses here last week. I think this is probably born out of a failure to understand what scrutiny is, because scrutiny is about doing just that—it is about challenging, and I think we've demonstrated that very well here this morning. I think it's absolutely an essential part. That is what I did, and that is what I will continue to do as a member of any committee I sit on.

Thank you very much. I'm sure I will be criticised later on today, if not already, for the issues I raised from Professor Beadle regarding horses, but I think our duty is to put questions that are helpful in bringing us to a conclusion, by testing the arguments of people who we're dealing with. So, thank you all very much.

10:35
6. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42 i Benderfynu Gwahardd y Cyhoedd o’r Cyfarfod
6. Motion under Standing Order 17.42 to Resolve to Exclude the Public from the Meeting

Cynnig:

bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).

Motion:

that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

Can I move a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public for the remainder of the meeting?

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 10:35.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 10:35.

Dysgu am Senedd Cymru