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So – who are PAWSI?

by Louise Hector

Last night Darren gave a little more information about the growing concern that the government are going to announce very soon that they won’t ban the use of wild animals in circuses, instead they are considering a system of self-regulation.  As we’ve all seen from the Press Complaints Commission there are serious doubts about whether self-regulation offers any kind of safeguards at all.

The body which the Government seems to be looking to, to regulate circuses, is PAWSI (Performing Animals Welfare Standards International).  I’ve been doing a bit of research today into who PAWSI are and whether they should be entrusted with this important animal welfare role.

PAWSI was formed in 2000 by Rona Brown – an animal trainer who has worked in the ‘entertainment industry’ for more than 30 years and who boasts on her own website about rearing lions, zebras and leopards at home while bringing up her own children – and Peter Scott, a vet and animal trainer who works in the film industry.  Advisers to PAWSI include Jim Clubb of Amazing Animals – the company which was supplying Hamleys with penguins and Martin Lacey of the Great British Circus.  Yes that’s the same Jim Clubb who has close links to the Chipperfield circus family and the same Great British Circus where a worker was recorded last year beating elephants (this is a very upsetting video, I had to turn off before the end).  Rona Brown has worked on several occasions with Amazing Animals on commercial jobs.

PAWSI is so intricately connected with the circus and animal entertainment industry that it cannot offer effective regulation.  There is no suggestion that anyone from PAWSI has been involved in animal cruelty, but they cannot offer independence from an industry with which they as individuals are so closely linked, an industry which keeps animals in conditions that many consider to be incompatible with their welfare.

PAWSI say they have produced a code of practice for circuses but unfortunately this isn’t available on their website.

PAWSI also seem to have some problems with the role of animal welfare charities in influencing government policy.  In a submission to the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 1994 PAWSI said “Animal charities and pressure groups should have no power in government business nor be part of any database used in animal welfare“.

OK.  Well, presumably though they know what animal cruelty actually is?  Or perhaps not.  In the same submission they go on to say “...obviously cruelty is not acceptable in any form but who decides what is and is not acceptable. If this is subjective who decides who is subjective or not?”  I’m not sure that even makes sense, but it doesn’t fill me with confidence that they could offer strong, effective regulatory powers.

It’s clear that PAWSI shouldn’t be allowed to take control of the regulation of the use of wild animals in circuses.  But really – do we want regulation? Or do we want the government to listen to the 94.5% of us who want to see an end to animals in traveling circuses?  If you haven’t made up your mind yet then watch this video from the Captive Animals Protection Society and then ask your MP to sign EDM 403 calling for an end to wild animals in circuses –  James Barisic has a template letter.

I’ve always been against the use of animals in circuses but watching these videos convinces me that it’s absolutely vital that we take this opportunity to convince the government that there is no place in modern British society for such cruelty.

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