Ann Widdecombe and Bishop John Arnold have joined other faith and secular leaders in condemning the ‘extreme suffering’ of baby Asian elephants used for tourism after a Bill to enforce such a ban cleared the Commons.
The Animals (Low Welfare Activities Abroad) Bill has received an unopposed third reading and it will now undergo further scrutiny in the House of Lords.
The Bill would make it illegal for travel companies in the UK to sell and advertise cruel animal activities that take place abroad.
Duncan McNair, CEO of Save the Asian Elephants, handed a petition to No. 10 Downing Street, signed by 1.2 million people, which called for a ban on UK firms marketing holiday venues that specifically exploit elephants and was supported by former politician and popular Catholic Ann Widdecombe.
“The extreme suffering of baby and calf Asian elephants broken for use in so much tourism is appalling,” Ann Widdecombe said.
“So is the shocking heartlessness of numerous travel companies sending customers to venues where such violence is routinely committed. I join millions in wholeheartedly supporting the campaign to outlaw advertising of such places.”
Duncan McNair explained the origins of the Animals (Low Welfare Activities Abroad) Bill.
“I conceived the notion and framework of a new UK law to ban the advertising and sale of access to overseas venues where Asian elephants, their babies and all other vertebrate species are brutalised in tourism, so much generated by the UK market, and STAE has pioneered it ever since,” Mr McNair told the Universe.
“That now constitutes the above Bill which though it differs in some ways from the Bill the UK government asked me to draft in 2018, is by its reach, scope and promise of adoption across the world regarded as extremely important. This is a law of which this country and in time every country can be proud.”
Bishop John Arnold, Lead bishop for the Environment at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, underlined his opposition to ‘the abusive commercial exploitation of Asian elephants.’
“The species is highly sentient and susceptible to pain and feelings of fear, loss and grief in many ways akin to humans. Furthermore, it is widely recognised as environmentally very important to the nourishment and sustenance of the forests it inhabits in the wild, themselves essential to the welfare of the planet,” Bishop Arnold said.
“I strongly support attempts to gain legal protection for Asian elephants through a ban on promotion in the UK market of venues where abusive practices are happening to the elephants.”
Many religious leaders have registered their support for the Bill, including Barbara Gardner, founder and CEO of the Animal Interfaith Alliance, former Jain monk Satish Kumar and Mart Layton from Quaker Concern for Animals. Popular cultural figures and academics such as Ricky Gervais and Dame Jane Goodall also support the Bill.
Environment minister Trudy Harrison underlined Government support for the Bill.
“I hope that the introduction of this Bill will emphasise that we should not exploit animals for human entertainment and will show why exactly the UK is a world leader in animal welfare,” she said.