Practical Issues > Animals for Entertainment > Circuses

Call for wild animals circus ban
January 2006

Two leading animal welfare charities are calling for the government to ban the use of wild animals in circuses.

The RSPCA and Born Free Foundation want the ban included in the Animal Welfare Bill which is currently in the committee stage in Parliament.

Ming, last circus bear in the UK

Some UK circuses still use wild animals in their acts, the RSPCA reports.

It says they are often kept in cramped conditions and factors such as repeated transportation are completely at odds with their natural environment.

Lions and tigers

The bill would not ban animals performing in circuses but some claim it could eventually result in such a move.

The organisations say seven tigers, five lions, an Asian elephant, an American black bear, eight camels and three zebra the are among animals still kept in three UK circuses.

They say some wild animals kept by circuses barely have room to turn around in their cages.

The RSPCA adds that the animals' lack of privacy and the high noise levels are also completely against what they would experience in the wild.

The Animal Welfare Bill, which was debated in the Commons last week, includes harsher fines of up to �20,000 and jail terms of up to 51 weeks for animal cruelty.

But the RSPCA's David Bowles said the charity was not convinced by arguments that welfare provisions contained in the new law would prevent most wild animals being used by circuses.

He said the difficulty of accessing circus animals apart from at their owners' invitation would make enforcement difficult.

He added: "The only way to end the welfare problems associated with the ludicrous spectacle of wild animals prancing around the Big Top is to ban the practice outright - as has already happened in Austria, Costa Rica, Israel and Singapore."

Virginia McKenna, actress and Born Free Foundation campaigner, told BBC News wild animals in circuses spent a lot of time confined in travelling wagons or enclosed spaces in what was "a travesty of the relationship between animals and human beings".

Speaking on BBC One's Breakfast, she said: "We would absolutely confirm our view that wild animals... that exist in British circuses now should be retired to decent retirement homes and no longer asked to perform stupid tricks for the rest of their lives."

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett has insisted new animal welfare laws would not destroy circuses, saying very few of them still kept wild animals.

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