Scotland bans use of wild animals in travelling circuses

Animal welfare groups welcome decision of Scottish parliament and call on Westminster to follow suit

Scotland has become the first country in the UK to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses.

Animal welfare campaigners said the legislation, which was passed by the Scottish parliament on Wednesday afternoon, was leading the way for the Westminster government to follow suit.

The director of the animal rights group Peta, Elisa Allen, said: “Captivity is a living hell for animals such as tigers and lions, and a circus environment can’t possibly meet their complex needs.

“These animals are understandably frustrated, stressed and depressed from a lifetime of being denied the opportunity to do anything that’s natural and important to them, kept caged in trailers that are hauled around the country, and forced to perform confusing tricks under the big top out of some Victorian-era sense of amusement.”

“Let’s hope the progress in Holyrood serves to light a fire under the government in Westminster, which, despite years of promising to bring in a ban, continues to sit back and do nothing as England falls further and further behind the growing number of countries putting a stop to these cruel institutions.”

The bill was proposed by Scotland’s environment secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, who said: “This is an important act that will not only prevent travelling circuses ever showing wild animals in Scotland in the future, but will demonstrate to the wider world that we are one of the growing number of countries that no longer condones the use of wild animals in this way.”

Cunningham explained during the Holyrood debate on Wednesday that the definition of what constitutes a wild animal for the purposes of the ban had been left deliberately general to allow courts to give animals as broad a protection as possible when applying the law.

Some MSPs, however, said the bill did not address all animal performances, such as greyhound racing or bird of prey displays.

Mark Ruskell, the environment spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, who first proposed a ban on wild animals in circuses to Holyrood more than a decade ago, said: “I’m delighted that Holyrood has finally approved a bill to ban this abuse, joining dozens of other countries around the world. The Scottish government must now look at banning the use of wild animals in static circuses and further regulation of performances where the welfare of animals may be compromised.”

Libby Anderson, a policy adviser for the animal protection charity OneKind, said: “Today’s historic announcement means that never again will we have to see lions, tigers and elephants suffering in cramped trucks, being made to perform tricks purely for people’s entertainment.”

Jan Creamer, the president of Animal Defenders International, said: “The public called for a ban, and the Scottish government and parliament listened, banishing travelling circuses with wild animals forever. Meanwhile, England continues to sit on its hands, and a bill nearly five years old – no more delays, it’s time to stop circus suffering.”

Westminster published its proposals to ban travelling circuses from using wild animals in 2013. However, despite the support of the then prime minister, David Cameron, the government, Labour and more than 90% of the British public, the proposals were repeatedly blocked by a small group of Tory backbenchers.

The Scottish parliament’s move reflects a growing trend around the world. In January the US circus, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey, said it would close after 146 years because of declining tickets sales and high operating costs. It came the year after the circus retired its elephant act, following legal action by activists. It admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to a six-figure fine several years before ending the elephant performances.


Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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