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Zoo refused gagging injunction against animal cruelty charity

In Heythrop Zoological Gardens Ltd (T/A Amazing Animals) & Anor V Captive Animals Protection Society EWHC/IPEC (20 May 2016), a company that supplies animals to the TV and film industry was refused an interim injunction to prevent an animal protection charity publishing photographs and video clips taken on their premises.

The Defendant charity, Captive Animals’ Protection Society (CAPS), visited Heythrop Zoological Gardens, the claimant company, and took photographs and video clips which it later used in internet articles alleging the animals were being mistreated.

The Claimant brought claims against CAPS for breach of contract, breach of confidentiality and breach of non-property performer's rights.

The Claimant sought to restrain publication of the photographs before the trial. The Defendant charity argued that the claimant’s main concern was damage to their reputation. It argued that the Claimant was seeking to circumnavigate the restriction on pre-trial restraint in defamation cases.

The Court held that the CAPS’s right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights was engaged. The debate about animal tricks was not clear cut. The charity was clearly acting in the public interest and performing an important journalistic function. The fact that the photographs were not strictly necessary to the campaign did not reduce the importance of Article 10; the photographs added weight to the campaign and their use was a matter of journalistic judgment.

The Court concluded that there was an insufficient likelihood that a permanent injunction would be granted at trial to justify the making of such an order in the interim. The application was therefore refused.

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