Scottish Government legislation welcomed - but it must be brought into force as soon as possible
Charities have welcomed a decision to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses.
The Scottish Government this week, in its legislative programme for the year ahead, pledged to introduce a bill outlawing the practice.
Legislation would “ban the use (performance and exhibition) of such animals in travelling circuses on ethical grounds on the basis that this practice is morally objectionable to a large proportion of Scottish society.”
OneKind and the Born Free Foundation have campaigned for many years for a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
We want to see urgent progress to ban this outmoded and inhumane use of animals in the name of entertainmen
Libby Anderson, OneKind policy advisor, said: “We are delighted that the Scottish Government has made this commitment.
“Now we want to see urgent progress to ban this outmoded and inhumane use of animals in the name of entertainment. Until the ban is in place, there will always be a risk of animal circuses coming to tour Scotland, despite overwhelming public opposition and serious concerns for the welfare of the animals involved.
“This sends a powerful message that Scotland will take the lead on animal issues. We hope that other UK and European countries that continue to allow wild animals to suffer in circuses will take courage and follow suit. I am also hopeful that this will be the first of many initiatives over this parliament that will position Scotland as a leader on animal welfare issues.”
In July 2015, the Scottish Government published an analysis of its public consultation on the use of wild animals in circuses, carried out in 2014.
The consultation asked whether the public would support a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in Scotland on ethical grounds and 98% of all respondents supported a ban.
Public opposition to the use of wild animals in circuses is consistently high. The most recent Scottish poll, carried out for the More for Scotland’s Animals coalition in March 2016, found that 75% of those polled supported an end to the use of wild animals in circuses, rising to 78% among the 18-24 age group.
Liz Tyson, Born Free Foundation consultant on animals in entertainment, added: “The only way in which the animal welfare and ethical concerns surrounding the use of wild animals in travelling circuses can be properly addressed is to introduce a comprehensive ban. There has been far too much tinkering and delay at Westminster, and we congratulate the Scottish Government on taking this step, which can lead the way for the rest of the UK.
“The Born Free Foundation and OneKind urge the Scottish Government to bring forward the legislation without further delay.
“By doing so, the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament can demonstrate their commitment to modern animal welfare standards, and take a lead in ending these outmoded entertainments throughout the UK.”
The charities say scientific research has concluded that there is no evidence to suggest that the natural needs of non-domesticated animals can be met through the living conditions and husbandry offered by circuses.
The constant travelling, confinement and lack of natural companionship, and the requirement to perform tricks for public entertainment are all out of step with modern animal welfare science.
There have been no circuses with wild animals based in Scotland in living memory, but circuses with wild animals have toured Scotland over the last decade.
In late 2014, a big cat circus trainer moved to Scotland with two lions and three tigers. He kept the animals in a farm near Fraserburgh from October 2014 to June 2015, after which he moved the cats back to England to begin performances again.
The presence of the cats in Scotland led to a public outcry and serious concerns were raised by animal welfare NGOs, parliamentarians and experts.