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19th of January 2018

United Kingdom



Travelling circus wild animal ban agreed

Legislation banning the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in Scotland has been passed.

The bill, which bans the use of non-domesticated animals for performance or exhibition in travelling shows, does not apply to static circuses.

MSPs unanimously signed off the ban, the first of its kind in the UK.

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the move would send a message to the world that Scotland does not condone the misuse of wild animals.

There are not currently any travelling circuses based in Scotland which use wild animals.

However, a Scottish government survey found that more than 95% of respondents were in favour of a ban, and legislation was introduced at Holyrood on "ethical" grounds.

The ban does not apply to static circuses, but a circus leader warned MSPs during committee consideration that a law on such grounds "will eventually close your zoos".

Ms Cunningham conceded that such travelling circuses "rarely" visit Scotland, but called it "a preventative measure based on ethical concerns".

She 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."

She said travelling circuses which do not feature wild animals "will always be welcome in Scotland".

Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron said the legislation meant "we will finally and at last truly be able to say Nelly the Elephant has packed her trunk and said goodbye to the circus".

Labour's Claudia Beamish also spoke in favour, and said she hoped static circuses would be subject to a similar ban in future.

Green MSP Mark Ruskell said it was "unethical" to make animals live in circuses their whole lives, while Lib Dem Liam McArthur also strongly backed the bill.

MSPs had raised concerns earlier in the legislative process about a lack of definitions in the bill, including a definition of a travelling circus.

This was added at committee stage, which also featured a lengthy debate about what constitutes a wild animal - including references to alpacas, wallabies, raccoon dogs and even rabbits.

With members reassured by the amendments, the bill passed its final vote unanimously.

A ban on wild animals in all circuses in the Republic of Ireland is to come into force from 1 January 2018.

A total of 18 other EU countries have banned or restricted the use of wild animals in travelling circuses, in addition to 14 other countries, but a 2007 review by the UK government found insufficient evidence to support a science-based ban on welfare grounds.

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