Minister signals ban on circus wild animals

Wild animals are to be banned from circuses, ending hundreds of years of performing elephants, tigers and lions in the big top, the Government will say today.

In response to a public consultation. Environment minister Jim Fitpatrick said he was ‘minded’ to bring in a ban after 94 per cent of people backed the idea.

“I agree with the clear view emerging from the huge response to the Government’s consultation that keeping wild animals to perform in travelling circuses is no longer acceptable. So, I am minded to pursue a ban on the use of these animals in circuses,” said Mr Fitzpatrick, a minister in the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

He added he wanted to make sure animals no longer able to perform were well looked after. “Nobody wants to see them simply destroyed, and we will work with all concerned to secure a future for these animals,” said Mr Fitzpatrick.

Campaigners have been calling for a ban on performing animals in circuses for decades and their appearance has become less and less popular with the public.

Four British circuses currently use wild animals, the biggest of which is the Great British Circus, which entertains crowds with tigers, lions, camels, and zebras.

The others are: Peter Jolly’s Circus (camels, zebras, snakes and crocodiles); Circus Mondao (camels and zebras); and Bobby Roberts Circus (camel and elephant.)

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) said it was “delighted” at the prospect of a ban, which is not scheduled to come into force before the general election.

Professor Bill Reilly, BVA President, said: “Although it only affects a small number of animals at present our ethics and welfare group felt that their needs and the needs of future animals could not be adequately met by the environmental conditions of a travelling circus.”

He added: “If the Government goes ahead with a ban it is vital each animal is individually assessed so that appropriate action can be taken. This could include re-homing to a zoo or sanctuary, living out the rest of its life with existing owners, or other options that can meet its needs.”

The Captive Animals' Protection Society, which has been campaigning for a ban since 1957, said it was “no surprise” that it was so strongly supported by respondents.

“Opinion polls always show a majority oppose animal circuses and political support for prohibition is strong too,” said the CAPS’ campaigns manager Craig Redmond.

“A Bristol University study last year found that circuses fail to provide some of the most basic welfare needs of wild animals, such as space and social groups. It is obvious to most people that carting an elderly arthritic elephant and caged tigers from town to town is an outdated form of entertainment.”

He said the Government should also extend the circus ban to horses, dogs and other animals.

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