The Scottish Parliament has passed a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses.
MSPs unanimously backed the new law which Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said shows the world Scotland “respects” wild animals and does not tolerate their use as a “spectacle”.
She said the ban is a preventative measure on ethical grounds, given that such circuses “rarely visit” Scotland now.
She said: “It makes a clear statement to the world that the Scottish people respect the innate character of wild animals and will not tolerate their subjection to a nomadic lifestyle as a spectacle for entertainment.”
Ms Cunningham said powers in the Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Bill and associated guidelines will ensure the legislation is “robust” as well as “practical and easy to enforce”.
There was cross-party support for the ban which was first proposed more than a decade ago.
Conservative Donald Cameron said the law meant Scotland is “catching up” with 18 other European countries and the ban is correct “both on animal welfare and ethical grounds”.
He said: “It will ensure that shows and exhibitions that adhere to high standards which are presently set out will be able to continue operating whilst ensuring that the exploitation of wild animals in the arena of travelling circuses is now at an end.”
He added: “We will in Scotland finally, and truly, be able to say that Nelly the elephant has packed her trunk and has said goodbye to the circus.”
Labour’s David Stewart said his party supported the ban, adding that evidence shows travelling circuses cannot meet the needs of wild animals as they are subjected to confinement, transportation and training.
He highlighted a Scottish Government public consultation in 2014 in which 98% of responses backed a ban.
Green environment spokesman Mark Ruskell said the ban was a “watershed moment”, adding that he believed it is the first time ethical reasons have been used along with welfare evidence to effect change.
He said: “It sets an important precedent for anyone concerned about the rights of animals.”
Mr Ruskell called for consideration of further action on using animals in other environments, including static circuses.
Liberal Democrat Liam McArthur said his party supported the ban which highlights the “importance attached to the highest standard of animal welfare”.
We did it! After years of campaigning, the Scottish Parliament has unanimously passed a Bill to ban wild animals in travelling circuses in Scotland 🎪 pic.twitter.com/2JQKaWDSDH— OneKind (@onekindtweet) December 20, 2017
Libby Anderson, policy adviser for animal protection charity OneKind, said: “After years of campaigning by OneKind, I’m delighted that Scotland has become the first country in the UK to ban the use of wild animals in circuses.
“Today’s historic announcement means that never again will we have to see lions, tigers and elephants suffering in cramped trucks, being made to perform tricks purely for people’s entertainment.”
SCOTLAND BANS WILD ANIMAL ACTS, BECOMING THE FIRST UK NATION TO STOP CIRCUS SUFFERING! The public called for a ban & the Scottish Parliament listened. At its final debate today, MSPs voted unanimously in favour of the bill. WE DID IT!— ADI (@AnimalDefenders) December 20, 2017
Read more: https://t.co/7JYqHVyNpn pic.twitter.com/CAOFiuxHhk
Jan Creamer, president of Animal Defenders International, said: “The public called for a ban, and the Scottish Government and Parliament listened, banishing travelling circuses with wild animals forever.
“Meanwhile, England continues to sit on its hands, and a bill nearly five years old – no more delays, it’s time to stop circus suffering.”