Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Call to change animals circus ban

Plans to ban wild animals from circuses in England should be redrawn so that only elephants and big cat species are covered, MPs say (Animal Defenders International)

Plans to ban wild animals from circuses in England should be redrawn so that only elephants and big cat species are covered, a committee of MPs has recommended.

The cross-party group questioned why ministers planned to ban animals including raccoons from the big top while allowing them to perform on TV shows such as Britain's Got Talent.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee said the proposed blanket ban, due to come into force in December 2015, should be narrowed to cover a list of specific species.

Chairwoman Anne McIntosh said : "The Committee agrees with the Government that the days when it was appropriate to have animals like lions or elephants travelling with circuses are long past, but the ban proposed in draft legislation goes too far in restricting the type of animals which travelling circuses might use.

"We believe that there should be a ban on big cat species and elephants, but it is possible to argue that, for example, camels, zebra or snakes can continue to have a place in the travelling circus."

Travelling circuses currently require a licence to use animals which are not normally domesticated in the UK for performance or exhibition. Two circuses currently have licences, covering 21 animals, including zebra, camels, reindeer and snakes.

Tory MP Ms McIntosh added that "the Government itself accepts that there is no overwhelming welfare case for a ban on wild animals in travelling circumstances".

The plans drawn up by ministers would see circuses hit with a £5,000 fine for flouting the ban on wild animals in travelling circuses in England.

Negotiations are under way with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland devolved administrations to see whether a UK-wide ban is achievable.

But in their report the MPs said: "We are concerned that the Bill, as drafted, may create new anomalies. We received evidence highlighting the fact that some animals, such as camels, while not ordinarily domesticated in the UK, are ordinarily domesticated in other countries. Camels could still be transported to take part in races in the UK but not in circuses."