There has been a long running campaign to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses. The Wild Animals in Circuses (No2) Bill will introduce a ban in England and will have its second reading on 7 May 2019. A ban already exists in Scotland and there are proposals for a ban in Wales.Jump to full report >>
There has been a long running campaign in the UK to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses, which is a devolved issue. A licencing scheme for wild animals in circuses, with a 2020 sunset clause, was introduced in England in 2013. The then Government committed to the introduction of ban by end of 2015 and published a draft Bill for consultation.
The current Government set out in 2016 its intention to introduce legislation to ban the use of wild animals in circuses when parliamentary time allowed. On publication of a review of the existing regulation in 2018 it announced that it would enact a ban by 2020 and allow the licencing regulations to expire.
A short Bill was published on 30 May 2019, introducing a ban from 20 January 2020. Second reading of the Bill will take place on 7 May 2019.
Support for a ban
Following on from debate during the passage of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 through Parliament, the Labour Government carried out a public consultation on how best to safeguard the welfare of wild animals in travelling circuses in England. At the time 94.5% of respondents considered that a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses would be the best option to achieve better welfare standards.
In May 2011 the Coalition Government announced its decision to introduce a licensing scheme for wild animals in circuses in England, using powers provided by the Animal Welfare Act 2006. It considered that a complete ban would require primary legislation. It then consulted on the proposed licensing scheme. The regulations to bring in the licensing scheme came into force in January 2013.
Defra figures for 2018 show one licence application for five animals (one zebra, two camels and two reindeer), and a second for fourteen animals (one camel, four reindeer, one fox, three racoons, three zebra, a blue and gold macaw and one zebu).
Policy in the Devolved Administrations
The Scottish Government passed legislation to ban wild animals in travelling circuses in December 2017. The Welsh Government has carried out independent review on the evidence of animal welfare of wild animals in travelling and non-travelling circuses and has announced a ban will be introduced in 2019. Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Executive has investigated the possibility of an all-island approach to the issue of wild animals in circuses through adoption of a Code of Practice. However, the Republic of Ireland banned wild animals in circuses in 2018.