The show ain’t over
After hosting reptile shows in Doncaster for almost 20 years, Doncaster Council has relented to pressure from animal rights extremists and it appears no further shows will be held there – for a while at least.
Animal rights extremists have been campaigning to stop reptile shows since late 1986 – claiming the events were illegal, that the animals on display suffered poor welfare, posed invasive species risks and presented health risks for the people attending. Despite all of these assertions being proven untrue, the pressure from animal rights groups has been relentless.
The legal loophole under which these events were formerly scrutinised was closed in 2018. The law was originally passed in 1982 in order to end the poor welfare suffered by animals being sold on outdoor market stalls on London’s Petticoat Lane – and quite rightly, too. However, this law was misappropriated by animal rights groups in the 1990s, claiming that indoor reptile shows organised by specialist reptile societies fell under this law’s jurisdiction, when these events clearly bore no resemblance to the circumstances for which the law was created. Indeed, the Doncaster Racecourse show has welcomed the attendance and vigilance of specialist veterinarians for almost a decade, including Doncaster Council’s own veterinarians and licensing officers. Welfare at these events is demonstrated at an impressively high standard. And, in an email addressing the recent issues, Doncaster’s Mayor, Ros Jones said, “it is important to understand that the event itself is legal and complies with legislation.”
Similarly, the allegations about health risks to visitors have been roundly refuted too. A campaign launched by animal rights groups in the early 2000s to provide no-win-no-fee legal services to anyone who caught salmonella at a reptile show yielded absolutely no claimants or support, and descended into obscurity soon after. And the risk of these shows becoming a launch point for invasive species is similarly ridiculous, with one AR report intimating that tropical Madagascan Mantella frogs could become invasive in the UK.
Essentially, all of the aspersions upon which the AR groups build their arguments boil down to the extreme ideological opinion that reptiles should not be kept as pets, and that argument is entirely without merit or scientific rigour. Indeed Elaine Tolland from the Animal Protection Agency made exactly that statement in the BBC’s Inside Out documentary in 2012, stating that her objective was “to see a ban on the trade and keeping reptiles as pets.” The number of people who support this ridiculous notion is tiny, but they are extremely vocal in the pursuit of their agenda.
Despite pressure from AR zealots, there has been a reptile show held in the UK every year since the late 1980s and, thankfully, the show ain’t over ‘til it’s over.
The organisations that stage the Doncaster event have already found not one, but two venues to hold a show later this year. It’s a testament to the ethics and determination of the reptile community that the show will continue, but there’s no denying that pressure from animal rights groups is becoming more frequent and extreme in its consequences every year. While propaganda from AR groups goes unchallenged and left to permeate into mainstream culture, we run the risk of these extremist views becoming the norm.