In its new proposed programme for Government 2016/17, the Scottish Parliament has pledged to introduce a Bill this session to end the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in Scotland.
This follows decades of campaigning and lobbying for a ban by OneKind and the Born Free Foundation. Libby Anderson, our policy adviser who has led our circuses work for many years welcomed the commitment:
“I am absolutely delighted that the Scottish Government has made this commitment. Now we want to see it move quickly 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.”
“Today demonstrates that Scotland can 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.”
Scotland will be the ninth country in the EU to ban wild animals in circuses, with bans already in place in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Malta, Netherlands, and Slovenia. Partial bans are in place in Bulgaria, Czech republic, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden.
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. 98 percent 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 percent of those polled supported an end to the use of wild animals in circuses, rising to 78 percent among the 18-24 age group.
Liz Tyson, an expert working for our friends at the Born Free Foundation, 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.”
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.