Circuses will be banned from using wild animals in their shows under government plans to outlaw the practice “at the earliest opportunity”.
Ministers have unveiled plans to outlaw the “outdated” practice of using animals such as lions, tigers, monkeys and elephants to perform in circus acts.
Animal welfare minister Lord Taylor said that a tougher licensing regime will be brought in to improve conditions for performing animals until the laws are in force.
Lord Taylor said there was “no place in today’s society” for wild animals to be used for entertainment in circuses.
Wild animals deserve our respect. We have said many times we wanted to ban this outdated practice, but before we could do that there were serious legal issues we had to consider. Lord Taylor, animal welfare minister
“We have said many times we wanted to ban this outdated practice, but before we could do that there were serious legal issues we had to consider,” he said.
“We are developing proposals to introduce a bill as soon as parliamentary time allows. In the meantime we are introducing a circus licensing scheme to ensure decent conditions for wild animals in travelling circuses.”
Critics have condemned the announcement “yet another stalling tactic”.
This is utter betrayal. To suggest that the public bears the extra cost of an inspection and licensing regime, and then follow up with a ban, is ludicrous. -Jan Creamer, Animal Defenders International Chief Executive
“There is absolutely overwhelming evidence of circus suffering and not a single animal welfare body that will defend this industry,” Chief Executive of Animal Defenders International,” Jan Creamer, said.
“This is utter betrayal. To suggest that the public bears the extra cost of an inspection and licensing regime, and then follow up with a ban, is ludicrous,” she said.
It follows revelations of the mistreatment of a circus elephant, Anne, last year, which sparked outrage among animal rights groups.
Between 35 and 50 wild animals, including tigers, camels, zebras and snakes, are understood to be used in circuses. Elephants are no longer kept in circuses in the UK.
MPs backed a ban last year. Although the vote was non-binding, the government pledged to act on the demands.
But it warned that the government could be left open to lawsuits from circus owners and workers.
Under the new regulations, anyone responsible for a travelling circus that uses wild animals will need to hold a valid licence, meet strict welfare standards and have a retirement plan for each animal.
A dedicated government-appointed inspector will be ensure the animals are being cared for properly.