Ministers are preparing a law banning wild animals from circuses, following a campaign by The Independent.
Civil servants have begun drafting the new law, the Government said yesterday, 13 months after MPs called for a ban to be introduced within a year. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced the news while laying parliamentary regulations for a "temporary" licensing system for lions, tigers and other performing animals.
Animal welfare charities gave a cautious welcome, but expressed concern that ministers had failed to set a timetable for a ban. They say travelling circuses give wild animals much less space than in zoos and are also concerned about training and performances.
After more than 30,000 signed a petition in The Independent, on 23 June last year MPs unanimously backed a motion which read: "That this House directs the Government to use its powers under section 12 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to introduce a regulation banning the use of all wild animals in circuses to take effect by 1 July 2012."
Shortly before the vote, the Animal Welfare minister Jim Paice said: "If at the end of this debate the House were to approve this motion then of course we will have to respect that." However, following the debate Defra refused to implement the measure, citing unexplained legal problems.