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The RSPCA believes that the use of wild animals in circuses is outdated and should be consigned to the history books.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 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, and the most commonly used wild animals are the least suited to this existence. 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 Scottish Government has passed legislation on this matter and the and Welsh Government has recently announced plans to introduce their own ban. The Republic of Ireland introduced a ban at the beginning of 2018. 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 three 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. Please support the Wild Animals in Circuses Bill (proposed by Trudy Harrison MP) when it receives it’s Second Reading.

For more information, please see the briefing.