Cllr Andrew Muir stated “When Circus Vegas made their application a few months ago to North Down Borough Council to setup on the site of the old Bangor Academy School on the Gransha Road I was concerned but, unfortunately, it was approved as Council hands are tied. It seems that Councils in Northern Ireland cannot, unfortunately, refuse applications on land not owned by the Council simply because they disagree with animals featuring in circuses.
“Conscious that the Circus was set-up on land owned by South Eastern Education and Library Board (SEELB) I contacted the Board without any success. I then contacted the Minister for Education and requested that she intervene. In response Caitríona Ruane informed me that she shared my concerns and suggested that I write to the Chief Executive for each Education and Library Board.
“After contacting each Board I can now report that SEELB have decided to ban circuses involving animals from any SEELB land. The Western Board has also agreed to implement a similar ban but the North Eastern Board is refusing to take action with a Senior Official informing me that “I am content that the circuses using the Board’s lands are fully in compliance with the law”.
“Belfast Board informs me that no applications have yet been received by circuses and, if so, would be carefully considered. The Southern Board hasn’t bothered to reply to my letter. I am however following this up.
“Whilst I welcome the moves by SEELB and WELB I call upon the Minister for Education to intervene and ensure NEELB stops allowing their land to be used by circuses involving animals. Warm words of support must be followed up with real action.
“Evidence from the Alliance for Animal Rights details ‘Animals in circuses live a life of restriction, cages, chains and constant transportation. All for a few minutes performing in the ring in the name of ‘entertainment’.’
“With circus animals sometimes forced to perform confusing, uncomfortable, repetitious and often-painful acts I am glad that my actions will make it more difficult for circuses involving animals to establish at many sites across Northern Ireland. It will also be a relief for people living near the old Bangor Academy School who had to endure the circus on their doorstep during late July / early August 2010.
“I will continue to campaign to see a Northern Ireland wide ban on circuses involving animals. Until the Agriculture Minister acts I will endeavour to close all available loopholes. Animal welfare must be higher up the political agenda.”