Wild Animals in Circuses

In December 2009, the then Labour government launched a three month public consultation on the use of non-domesticated animals in circuses.

Following the consultation’s closure in March 2010, DEFRA announced the results for over 10,000 respondents, including:

  • 95.5% believed no species of wild animals are acceptable in circuses;
  • 94.5% supported a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses as the best option to achieve better welfare conditions;
  • 84% believed that animals should be re-homed in zoos or sanctuaries;
  • 96% thought that travelling circuses should be prevented from obtaining further wild animals; and
  • 96.5% thought inspectors should undertake unannounced inspections of travelling circuses.

The Labour minister, Jim Fitzpatick, said, “We are minded to ban wild animals from travelling circuses on the back of the consultation, given the weight of public opinion. With the evidence we have, we feel it is inappropriate for wild animals to be performing tricks in travelling circuses… we’re very clearly saying as a Labour government that we will legislate against wild animals in travelling circuses.”

I understand the Liberal Democrats had said they would ban wild animals in circuses, however, the Conservatives indicated they would not support a ban.Circus Lions in a Cage

Searching the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party’s web sites, using the phrase “wild animals in circuses”, produced these results:

  • Conservatives – “did not match any documents”;
  • Liberal Democrats – “74 results [eight pages] found containing some search terms” but none of the first ten results made any mention of circuses;
  • Green Party – the second result in the list referred to the animal rights policy and included the statement “We will immediately prohibit the use of animals in circuses.”

Austria, Croatia, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Israel and Singapore have all banned the use of wild animals in circuses and the  Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Portugal, India and Sweden have banned the use of certain wild animals in circuses.

The ban on wild animals in circuses in the UK is long overdue.

As indicated above, the Green Party would go further than just banning wild animals in circuses:

“In view of the fact that animal acts in circuses are cruel and degrading to performer and observer alike, we will immediately prohibit the import of, and sale from other sources of, all animals to circuses. We will immediately prohibit the use of animals in circuses and will encourage the re-homing of all existing circus animals to sanctuaries or other suitable establishments with relocation to the wild wherever possible.”

Our full policy on animal rights can be found here and the policy pointer can be downloaded from here.

David M. Davison

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