The Coalition government rejected a ban on wild animals in circuses yesterday in favour of a new licensing regime.
Environment ministers proposed inspecting and licensing each of the 20 wild animals in English circuses to ensure they enjoyed "high welfare standards".
The decision contradicts repeated previous statements by ministers that they were "minded" to introduce a ban. The RSPCA was "furious" at the U-turn, which was announced the day after ministers faced environment questions in the Commons.
With the support of the RSPCA and the British Veterinary Association, i is calling for the Government to rethink its position – 15,000 people have signed our online petition calling for a ban.
Three circuses in England currently use non-domesticated animals such as tigers, zebras, camels and pythons.
Yesterday Defra, launching a consultation, said inspectors would assess each animal's transport, including how long they were trucked without rest, enclosures and their treatment by trainers and keepers.
Opinion polls have consistently shown strong support for a ban in the UK and a ComRes survey of 1,000 people last week found 71 per cent in favour of the ban.
The RSPCA's senior RSPCA scientist Dr Ros Clubb said: "We are furious that the government has done a complete U-turn on this issue. Introducing licensing conditions is not replacement for a ban – and it will create a huge amount of red tape which is completely disproportionate to the size of this tiny industry."
i will present the petition to Downing Street on Tuesday. The deadline for signing is Tuesday midday. To sign, visit independent.co.uk/circusanimals