Comedian Ricky Gervais has urged an end to the “madness”, supporting Animal Defenders International (ADI) in its call for a UK-wide ban on wild animal circus acts without delay.

The plea comes after a backbench bill to progress legislation in England was blocked, like previous attempts, by a single MP on Friday.

Ricky Gervais said: “Using and abusing animals is not what I call entertainment. A ban on wild animal circus acts needs to happen without delay. Please support ADI and help secure a UK-wide ban, ending this madness once and for all.”

Last month, the UK Government indicated it would ban wild animals in circuses within England by January 2020, allowing regulations brought in as a temporary measure to expire. Following years of promises to bring in legislation, however, the announcement has been welcomed cautiously.

Jan Creamer, President of Animal Defenders International, said: “After so many years of promises, the public remains both frustrated and sceptical. They have heard it all before. With Scotland leading the way, the UK Government, and Wales and Northern Ireland, must call time on wild animals in circuses and legislate without further delay.”

Forty three countries have stepped up to stop circus suffering to date, with 27 of the bans – including in Scotland and Ireland, where prohibitions were passed last year – introduced since draft legislation for England was published in 2013. Since then, repeated efforts by backbench MPs to bring in a ban through Private Member’s Bills, supported by ADI, have been thwarted by just a few MPs. The latest bill, from Conservative MP Trudy Harrison, was introduced on 6 March; backed by the UK government, it was opposed on Friday 16 March but will have another Second Reading on 27 April. Although such bills can become law it is uncommon and just one MP can block its progress, unlike a government bill.

Changing attitudes and awareness of animal suffering have seen the number of wild animal circuses in Britain plummet, with opinion polls consistently showing that the UK public remains overwhelmingly opposed to wild animal acts, with a high proportion against all animal acts. Only two circuses perform in England, as well as Wales, with a total of 19 wild animals, Circus Mondao and Peter Jolly’s Circus.

Given the constant travel and their temporary nature, circuses cannot provide animals with adequate facilities to keep them physically or psychologically healthy. Welfare is always compromised. Expert analysis of scientific evidence, the most comprehensive and recent study of its kind to date, found “Life for wild animals in travelling circuses…does not appear to constitute either a ‘good life’ or a ‘life worth living’” with a ban supported by the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) and British Veterinary Association.

Backing ADI’s campaign to stop circus suffering and secure a UK-wide ban, Brian Blessed said: “It cannot come soon enough for the animals, who must endure an utterly unnatural and miserable life in the circus.” And Joanna Lumley: “Forced to perform, caged and confined, it is haunting and horrifying to see animals being used in circuses …We must end these pitiful acts across the UK”.

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