January 4, 2016


The RSPCA believes that the use of wild animals in circuses is outdated and should be consigned to the history books. Could the 2017 Parliament be the one that finally delivers the long-promised ban?

There are currently eighteen wild animals left in circuses in England: six reindeer, three camels, three zebra, one fox, one blue and gold macaw, three racoons, and one zebu.

Although this number is relatively low, the impact on the welfare of the animals involved is significant. Scientific research has shown that circus life can have a harmful effect on the welfare of many species. Circus animals are kept most of the time in close confinement, often in abnormal social groups, exposed to forced movement, human handling and noise.

A number of other countries have recognised this and banned the use of wild animals in circuses, including Austria, Belgium, Greece, Israel, Italy, Malta, Mexico and the Netherlands. Closer to home, the Welsh Government has recently announced plans to introduce their own ban, joining Scotland and the Republic of Ireland who already have bans in place. England is falling behind.

The RSPCA believes it is time this issue is addressed once and for all. In its Post Implementation Review of the current Regulations, the Government has set a deadline of 19 January 2020 for circuses to stop using wild animals but we believe progress needs to be made before then. Legislation introducing a ban in England should be passed at the earliest opportunity. Indeed, the legislation already exists. In March 2012 the then UK Government committed to bringing forward a ban on wild animals in circuses. A draft Bill was prepared and has already received pre-legislative scrutiny (by the EFRA Select Committee) and it was also presented as a PMB on a number of occasions, including twice in the last parliamentary session. Unfortunately on each occasion it was blocked or ‘talked out’ by a small group of backbench MPs.

A ban on wild animals in circuses is an issue that enjoys high levels of public and political support, with successive opinion polls showing a considerable majority of the public back a ban and a commitment to deliver one being official policy of all the main political parties in England. This is not a controversial issue and action to tackle it is long overdue.

The 2017 Parliament now has its opportunity to act. The Wild Animals in Circuses Bill (proposed by Trudy Harrison MP) has reached Second Reading stage in Parliament. This is the first time this Bill will be raised in the new Parliament and the first opportunity for MPs to show their support. Please support this Bill. 

For more information, please see the briefing.