Animal Aid


Posted 1 October 2004
Toucan on sale at the bird fair

As Outrage went to press we learned that Britain's largest bird market, the National Cage & Aviary Birds Exhibition, has been cancelled.

This is a huge victory for Animal Aid, our supporters and other anti-exotic pet trade groups, who have campaigned vigorously against this appalling event for years.

The Exhibition - scheduled to take place on December 4 & 5 - is considered the flagship show of the bird world and would have seen up to 100,000 birds on sale - many brutally torn from the wild.

Animal Aid investigators at last year's show found birds crammed into tiny cages, without enough room for them to perch or stretch their wings, and estimated that at least half of the birds on sale were wild-caught. Most showed symptoms of fear and stress, such as flying at the bars of their cage and growling when people approached.

Pressure pays

After 25 years at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham, the 60 year old event was scheduled to be moved this year to Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire. Although no explanation for the relocation was offered by Solihull Metropolitan Council (the licensing council for the NEC) or IPC Media (the organisers), the determined campaign we have orchestrated in recent years clearly played a significant part.

Last month, after pressure from Animal Aid, Birds First, the Animal Protection Agency and Captive Animals' Protection Society, the new licensing authority, Warwick District Council, announced that the bird market would breach The Pet Animals, 1951, which prohibits the sale of pet animals in public places on welfare grounds - as we have always maintained. However, the council stopped short of actually banning the exhibition and left the final decision with the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) - owners of Stoneleigh Park.

In light of the council's legal advice, Animal Aid alerted the Charity Commission that the RASE - a registered charity - could be putting themselves at risk of prosecution if they allowed the event to go ahead. The Charity Commission contacted the RASE, informing them that 'although it is a matter for the Local Authority to determine whether they will issue licences to permit such shows... the trustees have a duty to insure their actions do not bring the Society into disrepute.'


"Correspondence from Animal Aid and other activists alerted Stoneleigh that there might be a problem with certain aspects of the exhibition. As the RASE is a charity it believed it essential not to be seen to be condoning anything which might bring it into disrepute. It then sought its own Counsel's opinion who advised that the event could not be licensed and without a licence it would be unlawful. Stoneleigh did not want to withdraw from the contract and worked closely with IPC to rectify the situation. Eventually however, Stoneleigh came to the conclusion that due to the ambiguity in the law it wanted to terminate the contract. Its motivation was to avoid the possibility of bringing the charity into disrepute."
Cage & Aviary Birds, October 28, 2004

Meanwhile, a Warwickshire resident, Aileen Vania, had mounted a court challenge over the Council's refusal to take legal action to stop the event.

In Stoneleigh Park's official statement, released in this week's Cage & Aviary magazine, they admit that the flurry of protest letters and emails they received about the fair prompted them to seek legal advice. Their Counsel's confirmation that the event was unlawful, compounded by pressure from the Charity Commission, led to their decision to withdraw from the contract "to avoid the possibility of bringing the charity into disrepute."

The demise of this cruel bird market is a huge step forward in the fight against the exotic pet trade - a trade which is driving many species to the brink of extinction and causing untold suffering to hundreds of thousands of animals every year.

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