Scotland has become the first country in the UK to ban the use of wild animals in traveling circuses.
After a public consultation in 2015 which found that an overwhelming 98% of respondents supported a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses over 13,000 PETA supporters contacted the Scottish government asking them to follow through with introducing the ban as soon as possible.
On Wednesday afternoon the Scottish parliament passed the legislation, leading the way for the Westminster government to follow suit.
The bill was proposed by Scotland’s environment secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, who said: “This is an important act that will not only prevent travelling circuses ever showing wild animals in Scotland in the future, but will demonstrate to the wider world that we are one of the growing number of countries that no longer condones the use of wild animals in this way.”
Cunningham explained during the Holyrood debate on Wednesday that the definition of what constitutes a wild animal for the purposes of the ban had been left deliberately general to allow courts to give animals as broad a protection as possible when applying the law.
PETA Director Elisa Allen said: “Captivity is a living hell for animals such as tigers and lions, and a circus environment can’t possibly meet their complex needs.
“These animals are understandably frustrated, stressed and depressed from a lifetime of being denied the opportunity to do anything that’s natural and important to them, kept caged in trailers that are hauled around the country, and forced to perform confusing tricks under the big top out of some Victorian-era sense of amusement.”
“Let’s hope the progress in Holyrood serves to light a fire under the government in Westminster, which, despite years of promising to bring in a ban, continues to sit back and do nothing as England falls further and further behind the growing number of countries putting a stop to these cruel institutions.”
Some MSPs, however, said the bill did not address all animal performances, such as greyhound racing or bird of prey displays.
Mark Ruskell, the environment spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, who first proposed a ban on wild animals in circuses to Holyrood more than a decade ago, said: “I’m delighted that Holyrood has finally approved a bill to ban this abuse, joining dozens of other countries around the world. The Scottish government must now look at banning the use of wild animals in static circuses and further regulation of performances where the welfare of animals may be compromised.”
Whilst this is a positive step forward for Scotland, it brings to light the fact that the use of wild animals in circuses is still legal in England.
Jan Creamer, the 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 five years old – no more delays, it’s time to stop circus suffering.”
Westminster published its proposals to ban travelling circuses from using wild animals in 2013. However, despite the support of the then prime minister, David Cameron, the government, Labour and more than 90% of the British public, the proposals were repeatedly blocked by a small group of Tory backbenchers.
The use of wild animals in circuses was been banned in Dublin and Italy in 2017, and in a landmark move the US circus, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey, said it would close after 146 years because of declining tickets sales and high operating costs.