Wild Animals in Circuses Banned in Great Britain Under New Law

| by Phyllis M Daugherty
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The United Kingdom has decided to ban the use of all wild animals in circuses in England. On Wednesday, April 17, the British House of Commons passed a bill that makes it a violation of law for any operator of a traveling circus to use a wild animal in performance or exhibition after December 1, 2015, the Times of India reports.

In June 2011, when the bill was first proposed, Members of Parliament ((MPs) overwhelmingly supported a blanket ban, but Ministers were initially reluctant because of fears over possible legal action by circus operators.

Under the terms of the draft of the wild-animals-in-circuses bill, the ban effective on December 1, 2015, will cover "any creature not normally domesticated in Great Britain," according to the Times of India.

"This grace period is to allow operators of traveling circuses a reasonable period of time to adapt their businesses and organize suitable care arrangements for their wild animals," said Agriculture Minister David Heath.

The maximum penalty for violation of the prohibition under the current version of the draft Bill is £5,000 ($7638.00 USD).

"Until the ban comes into force, traveling circuses owners must meet strict licensing conditions to ensure high welfare conditions for wild animals,” stated Environment Minister Lord de Mauley.

This refers to the licensing requirements enforced since January 20, 2013, which has reduced the number of circuses using wild animals in England. The Times of India reports, “Two of the circuses operate with a license and one has removed all wild animals from its circus performances."

The British circus industry has included wild animals as an “integral part of the circus experience” for over 200 years. At one time it was believed that this was the only chance that most people would have to see exotic from animals from distant lands. The welfare of the animals was not considered as they performed very unnatural acts; such as, tigers jumping through fiery hoops, elephants cycling backwards, and chimpanzees juggling knives.

But times have changed and, increasingly, animal protectionists are exposing the suffering of wild animals caused by being unable to fulfill their instinctive behaviors in unnatural and inappropriate settings. The public has also become more educated and sensitive to the often inhumane conditions and cruel training techniques used to force wild animals to behave and perform in a very unnatural, often dangerous and demeaning manner.

The British government report on the ban states, "Today…we are fortunate to enjoy world-class zoos and internationally renowned wildlife documentaries, which together give children and adults an appreciation and knowledge of wild animals. As a nation we have long concerned ourselves with the plight of animals. Today the overwhelming view of the public is that travelling circuses are no place for wild animals."

Source: Times of India