Scotland could be a wild-animal-circus-free zone by next summer.
OneKind understands that the Scottish Government Bill to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses will be lodged before the Scottish Parliament rises for the summer recess.
The legislation will not only be an important statement of Scotland’s modern attitudes to animals, it will also lead the way for the rest of the UK. At present, progress has stalled at Westminster despite repeated commitments to ban wild animal circuses in England; while in Wales, it appears that the hoped-for ban is evolving into a licensing regime instead.
The Bill is expected to cover all non-domesticated animals travelling and performing in circuses, and any form of display or exhibition in static premises such as winter quarters.
The mandate for the legislation derives from a consultation in 2014, which produced an overwhelming response in favour of banning wild animal circuses. Out of 2,043 responses, a total of 2,003 respondents (98%) thought the use of wild animals for performance in travelling circuses should be banned in Scotland; and 1,969 respondents (96.4%) thought the use of wild animals for exhibition (without performing) in travelling circuses should be banned in Scotland.
Given the supposed lack of evidence of poor welfare in circuses, the ban will be made on ethical grounds reflecting respect for animals and their natural behaviours. OneKind has long made the case against circuses both on ethical and welfare grounds and welcomes their imminent demise in at least one UK administration.
OneKind has consistently called for a comprehensive ban on the use of all animals in circuses in Scotland and the rest of the UK. We have also raised concern about other entertainments using animals, such as reindeer displays, bird of prey exhibitions in shopping centres, and mobile zoos and animal handling parties. As far as we are concerned, these entertainments exploit animals and have little or no educational value.
It appears, however, to be the Scottish Government’s view that a straightforward ban on wild animals in travelling circuses can be achieved in a reasonably short time, while the myriad of other entertainment businesses will be more complex and difficult to regulate. OneKind is seeking assurances that the keeping and use of animals – in particular, non-domesticated or “exotic” animals – purely for entertainment purposes will be addressed in future regulations.
OneKind looks forward to cross-party support for the Bill once it reaches the Scottish Parliament. A ban on wild animal circuses featured in the manifestos of the SNP, Scottish Labour and Scottish Green parties for the 2016 election and it is more than time to conclude this unfinished business.