LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, BOYS AND GIRLS... welcome to the big top blog of Douglas McPherson, author of CIRCUS MANIA, the book described by Gerry Cottle as "A passionate and up-to-date look at the circus and its people."

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Will Scotland be first part of UK to ban wild animals from circuses?

Circus Mania author Douglas McPherson
meets one of the last elephants to perform
in a British circus.

There has been talk of banning animals from British circuses for more than 100 years (you can read the full timeline here) but talk has come a step nearer to reality with the Scottish government announcing that its Wild Animals in Circuses bill is one of 15 bills to be debated in the new parliamentary term.

If passed, the bill will outlaw wild animals in travelling circuses in Scotland.

A ban was proposed by the UK government in 2012, but the promised implementation date of 2015 came and went without the bill being passed into legislation. Since then, there have been numerous attempts to introduce a ban via a private members bill, but these have all been blocked. (Click here to read Why Christopher Chope is right to block ban.)

This week, several animal rights groups delivered a letter to 10 Downing Street, calling for the Prime Minister to implement the current ban. In the wake of brexit, however, it seems unlikely that the government would be willing to devote parliamentary time to such a fringe matter for the foreseeable future.

There are only two circuses currently licensed to travel with wild animals - Circus Mondao and Peter Jolly's Circus. Both are regulated by a license and inspection scheme that has been in place without incident or complaint since 2013.

With Westminster seemingly unwilling to implement a ban, however, pressure groups have turned their attention to regional government where they appear to have found more willingness to act.

Earlier this year, there was concern within the circus industry when Professor Stephen Harris was appointed to carry out a study of wild animals in circuses with a view to implementing a ban promised by the Welsh Assembly last autumn. Harris' report backed a ban although no further action by the Welsh Assembly has been reported to date.

Whether the Scottish government's bill will be passed remains to be seen, it is however the first regional government to assign parliamentary time to the issue.