It was an early start as Claire Robinson, our government relations manager, set off to Westminster, London.
Claire had invited us along on what turned out to be, not only a very busy day, but an important day for animal welfare.
At 8.30 am we met with three police officers outside Westminster tube station and had an informal meeting standing on the street. The officers had come to London to discuss a proposed bill they had been working on with Claire which, if passed, would replace several current pieces of legislation on dangerous dogs.
Claire provided them with background information on the MPs we were soon to meet, advised them on the best approach to take and who they could contact to drum up support for the bill.
Our next stop was the meeting in Portcullis House. Claire and the officers presented their case, the proposed bill was discussed and concerns were addressed. During the final moments of the meeting two MPs agreed to request a debate amongst their peers.
This was an excellent start to what was to be an interesting day.
Disaster and debate
Claire’s focus quickly shifted to the next issue on the agenda. The government debate on wild animals in circuses. We found a quiet cafe where Claire could catch up on emails and make phone calls to supporting MPs encouraging them to attend the debate.
In the afternoon we joined supporting charities Captive Animals Protection Society (CAPS), Born Free Foundation and Animal Defenders International (ADI) at a briefing in parliament. MPs were encouraged to drop in and gather information ahead of the debate. The general mood seemed positive and Claire seemed confident about the outcome of the forthcoming debate.
We then heard that the government had introduced a three-line whip. This meant that all of the conservative MPs were expected to attend the debate and vote against the ban. It was devastating news. And, extremely unusual for the government to exert their power in this way.
Anguish and delight
After an endless wait, it was finally time to head over to the house of commons. Claire and her team campaigned so hard and for so long, to get this far, the tension was palpable.
The debate started with Tory MP Mark Pritchard challenging the three-line whip set by the ministers. He told of his determination to continue to support the ban and stated that he would not be bullied. Almost every MP who spoke during the next two-and-a-half hours, spoke in favour of the ban. The three-line whip was withdrawn, and only one MP challenged the motion.
It was thrilling to see such support for the welfare of wild animals.
As the debate drew to a close, and the time for the vote approached, Claire was on the edge of her seat. It had clearly been an emotional roller coaster of a day. The vote was unanimous. MPs had listened to our campaign and to public opinion.
A fantastic result for Claire and for all the wild animals currently travelling with circuses across the country.
What's next for circuses?
Help us with the final push
Demand for government action after circus vote.
We have made huge progress towards a complete ban, but we haven’t crossed the finishing line yet. Please help us continue our vital work by giving a donation.
To make a donation over the telephone, please call 0300 123 8000 and state that you want to donate to The Big Stop (lines are open 24 hours).
Alternatively, you can text FACE06, followed by the amount you want to give to 70070. For example FACE06 £10 to 70070.
Finally, you can visit our justgiving page to make a regular donation or give a one off gift.
Find out more
Claire is just one part of a whole team dedicated to prompting political and behavioural change on a range of animal welfare related issues.
Take a look at our current campaigns today. What will you help change?