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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Wild animal circus ban welcomed by charities

This news post is about 5 years old

​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.



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about 5 years ago
Great news!
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John Dineley
about 5 years ago
I have been involved in the care of animals for over 40 years in zoos and wildlife parks both in the United Kingdom and Europe and am currently an zoological consultant and a Fellow of the Zoological Society of London. It has always been my contention that circuses should have regulation of their care and handling of animals as is the case in many European countries that now includes the United Kingdom with the introduction of the Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012. This requires specific welfare requirements, inspections and licensing to display these animals. Inspections are periodic and can be unannounced, licenses can be revoked, and fines imposed if standards are not met.However, I have never supported a ban of animals in circuses, as from the scientific evidence (and from personal observation) this seems both unnecessary and unfair to responsible circuses that do take their welfare obligations towards their animals seriously.There have been two reports commissioned on the welfare of animals in UK circuses.The first was undertaken by my colleague Dr Marthe Kiley-Worthington and published in 1990 with the financial support of the RSPCA and The Universities Federation of Animal Welfare (UFAW). Dr Kiley-Worthington spent some 18 months studying all aspects of animals in circuses, including making detailed quantitative recordings of their behaviour for over 3000 animal hours. Her conclusions were that circuses are by their nature not cruel and that any deficits in the husbandry of the animals within these environments could be addressed without the need of banning such enterprises.To quote her:“..there is no reason why circus training, any more than any other animal training, of its nature causes suffering and distress to the animals, or should be considered ethically unacceptable" (Kiley-Worthington, 1990).”A further circus animal welfare report was commissioned by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in 2007 and stated: “A ban on using wild animals in travelling circuses because of welfare concerns is not supported by the scientific evidence”They concluded that there was "little evidence" that the welfare of animals kept in travelling circuses was any better or worse than that of animals kept in other captive environments.Some might be aware that the British government have muted that they wish to ban wild animals in circuses despite the research. However, to date any plans to do this have not been finalised. Interestingly the UK government admits they cannot ban wild animals in circuses on animal welfare grounds. In a statement to the U.K.'s House of Commons, a Minister made this following statement:"...The 2007 Radford Report on circus animals concluded that there was insufficient scientific evidence to demonstrate that travelling circuses are unable to meet the welfare needs of wild animals presently being used in the United Kingdom. That position has not changed...." Minister of State for Agriculture and Food (James Paice) 1 March 2012It certainly is right that people should be concerned about the welfare of animals in the care of humans but as stated, these concerns need to be supported by proper objective research.Unfortunately, the debate about animals in circuses (despite the above cited research) has become incredibly polarised and emotive and much of this is due to the ideology of animal-rights from various lobby groups not the science of animal welfare. It seems the Scottish government have caved in to the animal-rights industry and is banning something not on the grounds of science but an issue of aesthetics.
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Dr. Moria Amjadi
about 5 years ago
Please respect the dignity of these beautiful creatures. Don't allow further abuse and exploitation to occur.
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Sophan Muangsombut
about 5 years ago
Born free Let them be