UK to ban wild animals at circuses

LONDON: Tigers jumping through fire balls, elephants cycling backwards or chimpanzees juggling with knives will soon be history.

UK has decided to ban use of wild animals in travelling circuses in England from December 1, 2015.

In June 2011 MPs overwhelmingly supported a blanket ban, but ministers were initially reluctant to meet their demands due to fears over possible legal action from circus operators.

But the House of Commons on Wednesday cleared the proposal that makes it an offence for any operator to use a wild animal in performance or exhibition in a travelling circus in England from 1 December 2015.

Under the terms of the draft wild animals in circuses bill, the ban will cover any creature not normally domesticated in Great Britain.

Agriculture minister David Heath told MPs “This grace period is to allow operators of travelling circuses a reasonable period of time to adapt their businesses and organise suitable care arrangements for their wild animals.”

The ‘grace period’ will be of three more touring seasons to travelling circuses, to enable them to adapt their performances and to make alternative care arrangements for their wild animals if necessary.

The maximum penalty on summary conviction for breach of the prohibition on use of wild animals proposed under the draft Bill is a fine currently pegged at £5,000.

Environment minister Lord de Mauley said “Until the ban comes into force, travelling circuses owners must meet strict licensing conditions to ensure high welfare conditions for wild animals.

Since the licensing scheme was introduced on 20 January 2013, the number of circuses using wild animals in England has reduced. Two now operate with a licence and one has removed all wild animals from its circus performances.”

The British circus industry is as old as over two centuries.

Wild animals have been an integral part of the circus experience: the only chance that most people would have to glimpse exotic beasts from distant lands.

The government report said “Today, by contrast, we are fortunate to enjoy world-class zoos and internationally renowned wildlife documentaries, which together give children and adults an appreciation and knowledge of wild animals. As a nation we have long concerned ourselves with the plight of animals. Today the overwhelming view of the public is that travelling circuses are no place for wild animals.”

The draft law says “the government does not believe it is appropriate to continue to use wild animals in travelling circuses because it is not necessary to use wild animals in travelling circuses to experience the circus, wild animals are just that and are not naturally suited to travelling circuses and may suffer as a result of being unable to fulfil their instinctive natural behaviour.”