Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

MSPs urged to rally behind circus ban bill ahead of debate

Posted: 3 October 2017

Animal Defenders International (ADI) is urging Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) to reflect the will of the public and rally behind the Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Bill at its Stage 1 debate on Thursday 5 October and as the popular legislation progresses through parliament.

The bill to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses was introduced in May 2017 following a government consultation which revealed a huge distaste for such acts amongst the public. 98% of respondents backed a ban, mirroring the findings of a similar consultation undertaken by the UK Government, and public opinion polls in Scotland and the UK over many years, demonstrating the continuing and overwhelming opposition there is to these outdated acts.

Jan Creamer, President of Animal Defenders International, said: “The public has made it abundantly clear they want to see wild animal circus acts consigned to the past. Now their elected representatives need to make it happen. ADI calls on MSPs to rally behind the government bill and make Scotland the first nation in the UK to finally act on this issue.”

Scrutinised by the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, a number of recommendations were made by the Committee in their recently published report to avoid “misinterpretation” and “ambiguity”. ADI states that these can be swiftly resolved, where appropriate, to ensure that, as stated by a Scottish Government spokesperson, “this important ethical issue” is dealt with “in the most timely and proportionate manner possible”. As noted by its convenor Graeme Dey MSP, the Committee “is fully supportive of Scotland’s ambition to be the first part of the UK to ban wild animals in travelling circuses”.

Once the bill has passed, Scotland will become the first UK nation to adopt legislation prohibiting animal circus acts, joining over 20 European countries, and 40 around the world, with similar restrictions in place. Although legislation to prohibit wild animals in circuses in England has been drafted and scrutinised, the UK Government has yet to progress the long-awaited law causing immense frustration and disappointment among the public and continued animal suffering.

Although there are currently no wild animal circuses based in Scotland they have visited in the past. There was an outcry when Thomas Chipperfield brought his lions and tigers to overwinter at a farm near Fraserburgh in 2014, ADI revealing the conditions in which the animals were forced to live. Prevented from performing in England over welfare failings, the big cat circus trainer toured Wales and has since remained at a fixed location in Staffordshire where ADI has again documented the animals living in cages on the back of a truck, with restricted access to an exercise area.

Until the legislation is in place there is a risk other travelling circuses could bring wild animals to Scotland. Last year, after The Netherlands banned wild animal acts, a circus travelled with three elephants some 500 miles, including a gruelling 20-hour ferry journey, to Ireland; facing public opposition, protests and negative publicity, the circus cut short their 9-month tour, leaving the country less than two months after its arrival. Without a ban, such acts could tour Scotland.

Given the constant travel and their temporary nature, circuses cannot provide animals with adequate facilities to keep them physically or psychologically healthy. Welfare is always compromised. Animals in circuses can also be subjected to brutal training methods and violence – wherever ADI has conducted an undercover investigation in the UK and around the world it has documented acts of abuse.

Expert analysis of scientific evidence undertaken by Professor Stephen Harris at Bristol University and published last year supports a ban on wild animals in travelling circuses, concluding, “The available scientific evidence indicates that captive wild animals in circuses and other travelling animal shows do not achieve their optimal welfare requirements.” The report stated that “Life for wild animals in travelling circuses…does not appear to constitute either a ‘good life’ or a ‘life worth living’”.

The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) has concluded “there is by no means the possibility that their [wild mammals in travelling circuses’] physiological, mental and social requirements can adequately be met.” The British Veterinary Association concludes that “The welfare needs of non-domesticated, wild animals cannot be met within a travelling circus - in terms of housing or being able to express normal behaviour.”

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Media Contact: Devon Prosser | 020 7630 3344 or 07785 552548 |

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