Agenda item - Review of the Animal Welfare Charter

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Agenda item

Review of the Animal Welfare Charter

Report of the Director of Public Health (copy attached).



9.1             The Committee considered a report of the Director of Public Health that requested the Committee to approve consultation on whether to retain or remove the exemption in the council’s Animal Welfare Charter allowing performances of equestrian acts following a request from the Economic, Development & Culture Committee to review this exemption.


9.2             Councillor Mitchell stated that she had significant problems with the report. Councillor Mitchell noted that the Green Party had historically campaigned against Zippo’s Circus and the report appeared an extension to that campaign. Furthermore, Councillor Mitchell noted that the recommendation was for the Committee to agree to consultation regarding the current exemption but that case law determined that councillors could not base their decision on moral grounds. Councillor Mitchell stated that should the Committee agree to consultation, it would be extremely difficult for councillors to differentiate in the results between those who objected to equestrian acts on moral grounds and those that did not.


9.3             The Deputy Head of Law stated that case law was clear that councillors had to make an objective assessment of the subject and evidence when reaching a decision adding that if a decision to proceed with consultation was agreed, any subsequent report would outline the benefit and implications to the area concerned and the consultation questions would be phrased to illicit answers that were not based upon moral judgements. The Deputy Head of Law stated that if the consultation responses were only based upon moral objections and Members debated similarly, any approval and decision to extend the exemption on that basis would be unlawful.


9.4             Councillor Buckley asked if any other local authorities or countries had reached a decision on this matter on the basis of collective morality.


9.5             The Deputy Head of Law responded that she was not aware of any other countries making a decision on that basis and was only familiar with case law.


9.6             Councillor Buckley stated that she was aware of several local authorities and countries using collective morality as a basis to make a decision on such an issue and asked if they could be referred to as a template of a consultation exercise.


9.7             The Deputy Head of Law stated that the authority could look at other authorities and the issues they had looked at such as economic benefit.


9.8             Councillor Deane stated that she was aware from the report that performing animals were often left in situ however; the report did not make any reference to the effect upon animals in performing such as stress.


9.9             The Head of Regulatory Services stated that officers and the council appointed vet had visited the circus several times and no concerns had been raised by either on this issue.


9.10        Councillor Daniel noted that this issue was addressed on page 60 of the report.


9.11        Councillor Robins stated that he would prefer that Zippo’s Circus not use performing animals on a moral basis however, he believed it would be hypocritical of the authority to impose such a ban when it owned an 18% stake in Brighton Racecourse where 7 racehorses had died in the past 7 years.


9.12        The Chair clarified that this was a general policy matter and not specific to Zippo’s Circus.


9.13        Councillor Mitchell stated that she found the report to be implicitly aimed at the practices of Zippo’s Circus and noted that the request to review the exemption had been made by Councillor Buckley and was not agreed by the Economic, Development & Culture Committee as a whole. Councillor Mitchell supplemented that the circus was a source of entertainment and no concerns had been raised about the welfare of the performing animals by the council appointed vet. Councillor Mitchell added that there was no clear moral line on this issue and that the report was not justified and she would not be supporting the recommendations.


9.14        Councillor Buckley stated that she did not agree with performing animals of any type and it was clear to her that a Green Party administration would seek to remove the exemption as it was a manifesto commitment.


9.15        Councillor Cox stated that whilst he recognised that such a policy was a manifesto commitment of the administration party, he found it contradictory that the authority would seek to ban Zippo’s Circus from using performing animals when it held a stake in Brighton Racecourse. Councillor Cox stated that the circus provided entertainment to the public and any consultation would be a waste of public resources.


9.16        The Chair then put the recommendation to a vote which failed.

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