The Welsh Government will ban the use of wild animals in circuses, the First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones will announce today in a move congratulated by Animal Defenders International (ADI) who, for more than 20 years, have been documenting and campaigning to end the suffering of animals in UK circuses.

A statement released this morning from the Welsh Government states “The way animals are treated is an important reflection of society and over the next 12 months, a bill will be introduced to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses on welfare grounds”.

Jan Creamer, President of Animal Defenders International, said: “We congratulate the Welsh Government for taking a stand to stop circus suffering in Wales and bringing a UK-wide ban one step closer.”

ADI has documented suffering and abuse in UK circuses for many years. Knowing that only a ban can protect them, we are delighted an end to the use of wild animals in circuses in Wales is finally within sight.”

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.

The Welsh Government committed to ban wild animals in circuses back in 2013, stating it would seek an extension to draft legislation published for England by the UK Government. The bill however was left to gather dust for five years, the UK Government finally committing, in February, to act by January 2020. Around the world, 45 countries have already introduced prohibitions on animals in circuses including Scotland and Ireland.

With a Welsh Government-commissioned report, published in 2016, finding that “Life for wild animals in travelling circuses…does not appear to constitute either a ‘good life’ or a ‘life worth living’” and in support of a ban, it was expected legislation would soon follow. ADI was disappointed when instead there was talk of regulation, which cannot ensure animal welfare and is unlikely to detect husbandry problems or physical abuse.

Consulting the public on the broader issue of mobile animal exhibits last year, the Welsh Government also asked if a ban on wild animals in circuses should be considered. The response from the public, including ADI and Welsh supporters, was unsurprisingly overwhelming, with the Welsh Government stating that there was “strong support for a ban”.

Most recently, during a debate in the Senedd in March, Assembly Members unanimously called for urgent action to bring in the ban, Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths responding that she was “exploring opportunities to bring forward legislation”.

Changing attitudes and awareness of animal suffering have seen the number of circuses with wild animals in Britain plummet. Only two remain: Circus Mondao and Peter Jolly’s Circus which are licensed in England and tour Wales. A third circus with big cats also performed in Wales when owner Thomas Chipperfield was unable to obtain a licence in England; it has remained off the road since.

ADI revealed the miserable lives of Chipperfield’s lions and now one tiger. Living caged on the back of a truck, the animals are shut behind metal shutters at night, with restricted access to an outdoor exercise area during the day. ADI has also documented appalling overcrowding, fighting between animals, a worker tormenting a camel, animals kept inside for days on end, and failure to comply with government regulations at the winter quarters of Peter Jolly’s Circus.

In support of ADI’s Stop Circus Suffering campaign in Wales, Hollywood star and Welsh actor Rhys Ifans slammed the use of wild animals in circuses saying, “Like bear baiting, witch burning and the ‘Welsh not’, this cruel practice belongs in the past”.

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