Animal Defenders International (ADI) congratulates the Scottish Parliament for being the first nation in the UK to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses. MSPs today unanimously voted through the ban at the final Stage 3 debate for The Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Bill, which now awaits Royal Assent.

Jan Creamer, President of Animal Defenders International, said: ""The public called for a ban, and the Scottish Government and Parliament listened, banishing travelling circuses with wild animals forever. Meanwhile, England continues to sit on its hands, and a bill nearly 5 years old – no more delays, it’s time to stop circus suffering."

The Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Bill was introduced in May 2017 following a government consultation, held in January 2014 but the findings of which were not published until June 2015, which revealed a huge distaste for such acts amongst the public. 98% of respondents backed a ban, mirroring the findings of a similar consultation undertaken by the UK Government, and public opinion polls in Scotland and the UK over many years, demonstrating the continuing and overwhelming opposition there is to these outdated acts.

Although there are currently no wild animal circuses based in Scotland they have visited in the past. There was an outcry when Thomas Chipperfield brought his lions and tigers to overwinter at a farm near Fraserburgh in 2014, ADI revealing the conditions in which the animals were forced to live. In response to the footage celebrity vet Marc Abraham said “Big cats are never meant to live like this… I support the fantastic work of Animal Defenders International in calling on politicians to pass a ban which will end the suffering of all wild animals in circuses.” while actress Annette Crosbie told STV that “These magnificent wild animals should not endure such dreadful conditions in the name of entertainment.” and that “I hope that the Scottish Government brings in a ban on wild animals in circuses swiftly, so that these animals do not continue to suffer.” Prevented from performing in England over welfare failings, the big cat circus trainer subsequently toured Wales and has since remained at a fixed location in Staffordshire where ADI has again documented the animals living in cages on the back of a truck, with restricted access to an exercise area.

Without legislation in place this and other travelling circuses can bring their wild animals to Scotland. Last year, after The Netherlands banned wild animal acts, a circus travelled with three elephants some 500 miles, including a gruelling 20-hour ferry journey, to Ireland; facing public opposition, protests and negative publicity, the circus cut short their 9-month tour, leaving the country less than two months after its arrival.

Given the constant travel and their temporary nature, circuses cannot provide animals with adequate facilities to keep them physically or psychologically healthy. Welfare is inevitably compromised. Animals in circuses can also be subjected to brutal training methods and violence – wherever ADI has conducted an undercover investigation in the UK and around the world it has documented acts of abuse.

The continued use of wild animals in circuses is opposed by animal welfare experts, animal protection groups, politicians and a huge majority of the public.

Expert analysis of scientific evidence undertaken by Professor Stephen Harris at Bristol University last year concluded, “The available scientific evidence indicates that captive wild animals in circuses and other travelling animal shows do not achieve their optimal welfare requirements.” The report stated that “Life for wild animals in travelling circuses…does not appear to constitute either a ‘good life’ or a ‘life worth living’”.

The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) has concluded “there is by no means the possibility that their [wild mammals in traveling circuses’] physiological, mental and social requirements can adequately be met.” and the British Veterinary Association that “The welfare needs of non-domesticated, wild animals cannot be met within a travelling circus – in terms of housing or being able to express normal behaviour.”

Animal circuses do nothing to teach people about the animals’ real needs and the way they live, and have no role to play in education or conservation.

More than 40 countries around the world have introduced prohibitions on animals in circuses to date and opinion polls consistently show that the public remains overwhelmingly opposed to wild animal acts, with a high proportion against all animal acts.

In England, the government has stated that it remains committed to a ban but has given no indication as to when the legislation, drafted and scrutinised back in 2013, will be introduced. In Wales, the findings from a government consultation on mobile animal exhibits and whether a ban on wild animals in circuses should be considered will be published in the New Year. In Ireland, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed TD signed regulations banning the use of wild animals in circuses in Ireland last month.

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