Captive Animals Protection Society

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Captive Animals' Protection Society
Captive Animals Protection Society logo.png
Formation1957; 61 years ago (1957)
TypeCharitable organization
PurposeAnimal rights, animal welfare
  • United Kingdom
Nicola O'Brien

The Captive Animals' Protection Society (CAPS) is a UK charity campaigning to end the use of animals in entertainment, such as circuses, the exotic pet trade and the audio-visual industry.


Circus elephants in Wales, 1956

The Captive Animals' Protection Society was founded in 1957 by retired school teacher Irene Heaton at a time when circuses were at their peak and all had animals.[1]

In 1965, CAPS promoted a bill to the House of Lords, sponsored by Lord Somers (who was then president of CAPS) to prohibit the use of performing animals. Despite much support it was defeated by just 14 votes.[2]

The 1970s saw CAPS organising demonstrations outside circuses. Pressure increased on animal circuses in the 1980s, gaining the support of the National Council of Women and local authorities started to prohibit circuses from using council land.

From 1975 to 1997, Sir Andrew Bowden served as its National President.[3]

In the mid-1980s CAPS started one of its most important campaigns, to stop animal acts at the prestigious Blackpool Tower Circus, where for six months of every year the animals were confined in the cellars of the tower. Three years later, it was announced that animal acts would stop at the circus once the contract expired in 1990.[4] When the circus owner moved to the adjoining Pleasure Beach there were weekly demonstrations. Backed by vets and other experts, the campaign worked and in 1997 Blackpool Pleasure Beach announced there would be no more animal circuses on its land.

Three of the charity's former directors have been given awards for their work by the RSPCA.

CAPS became a registered charity in 2008.


CAPS has carried out investigations into both the zoo and circus industries in the UK and Ireland[5][6][7][8][9][10] and has carried out and published various research projects relating to the use of animals in entertainment. The organisation founded and manages the annual Zoo Awareness Weekend event, which seeks to encourage public debate on the zoo industry from ethical, animal welfare, educational and conservation perspectives.[11]

In 2004 it commissioned the largest and most in-depth investigation ever made into the public aquarium industry, revealing most animals to have been taken from the wild and disputing conservation claims by the industry.[12][13]

In 2011 a report was released which highlighted the charity's concerns over the efficacy of legal protection of animals in zoos in England. The report raised queries over the enforcement of the law[14] and suggested that the system of inspection for zoos that is currently in place is unworkable.

In 2012 CAPS established the scheme which seeks to encourage the media industry to refrain from the use of performing wild animals in productions. The project was established in partnership with the Ape Alliance.[15]

In 2013 CAPS launched a new campaign entitled the "Fight for Flight". The campaign seeks to outlaw the practice of pinioning of birds in zoos. The charity's research found that the practice was being carried out illegally by members of the zoo industry.[16]

Campaigning against the use of animals in circuses has remained a core focus, supporting protests against travelling circuses around the UK.[17][18][19][20][21][22]


The charity's patrons include politicians, academics and people from the world of arts:[23]


  1. ^ "Our History". Captive Animals Protection Society. Retrieved 1 January 2013.
  2. ^ "Performing Animals Bill (H.L.)". Commons and Lords Hansard. UK Parliament. 16 February 1965.
  3. ^ "Sir Andrew Bowden, MBE Authorised Biography". Debrett’s People of Today. Retrieved 2012-12-30.
  4. ^ Acford, Louise (2 April 2007). "Animal welfare champion dies at 87". The Argus. Retrieved 2017-03-08.
  5. ^ "Restrictions on petting at criticised animal farm". BBC News. 1 April 2010. Retrieved 2017-03-08.
  6. ^ "Zoo admits connection with circus". BBC News. 19 October 2009. Retrieved 2012-12-30.
  7. ^ Daniel Foggo, 20 June 2010, "Woburn animals' secret suffering in cramped cages" at Accessed 7 March 2017
  8. ^ Lowe, David. "Merseyside zoo killed animals and left them to rot by bins". The Sun. London.
  9. ^ "Fury as Britain's top zoos are hired out for wild raves" at
  10. ^ Edwards, Anna (27 November 2012). "Fury as rare white lion cubs born in UK safari park are sent to a Japanese circus". Daily Mail. London.
  11. ^ "Animal rights activists get teeth into zoo". The Scotsman. 28 August 2004.
  12. ^ "findings may sink Britain's aquariums" at
  13. ^ "Aquatic Zoos. A critical study of UK public aquaria in the year 2004"
  14. ^ The Zoo Licensing Act 1981
  15. ^ "Find out about the apes - our relatives - and how you can help to save them from extinction" at Accessed 7 March 2017
  16. ^ "Zoos chop birds wings in half to keep them captive" at
  17. ^ "Animal group urges circus boycott". BBC News. 18 May 2004.
  18. ^ "Animal protection group urge residents to boycott controversial circus". Thurrock Gazette. 2009-10-06. Retrieved 2012-12-30.
  19. ^ "Public urged to boycott big top". BBC News. 2 June 2009.
  20. ^ "Protest over Big Top animal acts". BBC News. 11 February 2006.
  21. ^ "Protesters demand circus boycott". BBC News. 29 April 2006.
  22. ^ "'We love our animals': Circus boss hits back at call for big top boycott". Halifax Courier. 19 June 2008.
  23. ^ "Who we are". Captive Animals' Protection Society. Retrieved 1 January 2013.

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