Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Launch of new Bill on Wild Animals in Circuses

Posted: 9 July 2012. Updated: 17 April 2015


Member of Parliament Thomas Docherty (pictured), supported by MPs Mary Glindon, Angela Smith, Iain McKenzie, Andy Slaughter, Susan Elan Jones and Jim Fitzpatrick has thrown down the gauntlet to the Government, with his launch of a new Bill on Wild Animals in Circuses. The Bill has received its First Reading and the Second Reading will be on Friday 18 January.

MPs are becoming impatient with the delays by Defra ministers over this simple issue, which enjoys 95% of public support (Defra survey). A third of the public has already rejected the option of inspections and regulations (Defra survey), and has opted for a ban. An end to the use of wild animals in travelling circuses is the practical and economic way forward, rather than an expensive licensing regime including inspections that ADI have shown to fail to detect welfare problems.

This exchange took place in the House of Commons on 5th July:

MP Alex Cunningham asked the Government what recent progress she has made on banning the use of wild animals by travelling circuses. [115223]

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr James Paice) responded: My written statement to Parliament on 1 March 2012 confirmed our intent to ban wild animals in travelling circuses on ethical grounds. There are a number of issues to consider in developing the ethical case and the exact nature of the ban. We therefore hope to publish a draft Bill and full legislation as soon as parliamentary time allows. In the meantime, we aim to lay regulations shortly to introduce a new licensing scheme that will protect the welfare of such animals in the interval.

Alex Cunningham: In June 2011, the House of Commons unanimously passed a Back-Bench motion calling for all bans to be in place. We do not need to discuss it; we need to get on with a ban. DEFRA Ministers have failed to show any political leadership. They are just messing about, fiddling about. When will the Minister bow to the will of both the House and the public and bring forward the legislation?

Mr Paice: I can only repeat what I have just said. We have said we will introduce a ban on ethical grounds. We have also made it clear that we cannot introduce a ban on welfare grounds, because we believe that is legally flawed.

Alex Cunningham: Why not?

Mr Paice: The hon. Gentleman asks why not, but I have explained several times why not. We believe that such a ban would be wide open to judicial challenge, which we might well lose, hence we are using ethical grounds. That will be done as soon as parliamentary time allows.

The following parliamentary question was also posed on 4th July:

MP Greg Knight asked the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs when she plans to lay regulations before Parliament to restrict the use of wild animals in travelling circuses. [115125]

Mr Paice: My written ministerial statement on 1 March 2012, Official Report, columns 41-42W, confirmed that we intend to introduce legislation to ban the use of such animals on ethical grounds. A ban will be implemented as soon as parliamentary time allows. In the meantime, we will introduce a new licensing scheme to protect the welfare of wild animals in travelling circuses via regulations. We hope to lay those regulations before Parliament before the summer recess.

Don’t let Defra sit on this issue until the Government runs out of time, as has happened so many times before. Let’s force them to take this new bill seriously!


  • Write to your MP, and to the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street, London SW1A 3AA and ask that the Government allows parliamentary time for Thomas Docherty’s new Wild Animals in Circuses Bill to be debated and voted on. If the Coalition Government will not bring in such a bill itself, despite overwhelming public support for such a bill, then the Government has a duty to let the public speak and make time for this bill.
  • Contact us for help with letters, or ideas for more you can do to support the campaign.
  • Read how we have exposed circus cruelty at the Great British Circus, where we have also fought to make public inspection reports which highlight multiple welfare issues.
  • View our ‘Out of Control’ report, which includes case studies showing where inspections of travelling circuses have failed to identify sick and injured animals, abuse and excessive chaining.
  • Make a donation to our stop circus suffering campaign

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