The use of wild animals in travelling circuses will be outlawed in two years’ time under plans to be announced tomorrow by the Government.
More than 30,000 people signed an Independent petition calling for a ban, while MPs voted unanimously in favour of the move.
Two British circuses continue to include wild animals in their acts under the licensing system despite levels of public opposition. Between them they display about 20 creatures, mainly camels and zebras.
After the Commons vote Ministers pledged to prohibit wild animals’ use and introduced a licensing system for the use of wild animals as a temporary measure.
But they faced criticism for delaying the announcement of detailed plans for an outright ban more than a year and refusing to disclose a timetable for implementing it.
Lord de Mauley, an Environment minister, will today set out proposals for a draft Bill to stop circuses using animals from the year 2015.
The Conservative MP, Mark Pritchard, a leading campaigner for a ban, said: “If confirmed, I am delighted the Government have finally listened to Parliament and to public opinion. I am honoured to have played a small role in bringing about this ban and ending this cruel practice for scores of wild animals.
He added: “I congratulate The Independent newspaper on its relentless campaigning on this issue.”
The Government had appeared to drag its feet on the subject, pointing to legal and practical problems in legislating for a ban. In an emotional Commons speech in 2011, Mr Pritchard disclosed attempts to bully him into silence by Tory whips acting at the behest of Downing Street.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said: “We announced in March 2012 that it was our intention to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses and we are now working towards bringing in a Bill to achieve this.”
The cruel treatment of Anne, an Asian elephant, was one of the factors behind MPs’ support for a ban. An undercover film shot by animal welfare campaigners showed her being kicked and hit with a pitchfork by a groom at Bobby Roberts Super Circus.
Roberts was last year found guilty of three counts of causing unnecessary suffering to a performing elephant. He was given a three-year conditional discharge.
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