Parliamentary Committees and Public Enquiries
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Plans to ban wild animals in circuses win qualified support from MPs

Government plans to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses from late 2015 need to be more clearly and tightly defined, said the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee yesterday.

Launching the Wild Animals in Circuses report, Committee Chair, Anne McIntosh MP, said:  

“The Committee agrees with the Government that the days when it was appropriate to have animals like lions or elephants travelling with circuses are long past, but the ban proposed in draft legislation goes too far in restricting the type of animals which travelling circuses might use" 

“We believe that there should be a ban on big cat species and elephants, but it is possible to argue that, for example, camels, zebra or snakes can continue to have a place in the travelling circus.”

The Government invited the Committee to scrutinise a draft Bill that would ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses from December 2015 in England, with a fine of up to £5,000 for any breach.  Negotiations are under way with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland devolved Administrations to see whether a UK-wide ban is achievable.

Travelling circuses currently require a licence if they are to use wild animals (that is, those not normally domesticated in the UK) for performance or exhibition.  Two circuses currently have licences, covering 21 animals, including zebra, camels, reindeer and snakes.

Anne McIntosh added:

 “The Government itself accepts that there is no overwhelming welfare case for a ban on wild animals in travelling circumstances, and there is already legislation to deal with any welfare abuse, such as the case involving Anne the Asian elephant last year.

“There is also a regulation system in place since the beginning of this year, and we believe that the Government should narrow the provisions of the draft Bill and include a proscribed list of animals that can no longer be used in travelling circuses.”

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