DEFRA’s announcement of a “strict new licensing regime” to ensure high welfare standards for wild animals in travelling circuses has been poorly received by vets and welfare groups in the UK.

DEFRA’s announcement of a “strict new licensing regime” to ensure high welfare standards for wild animals in travelling circuses has been poorly received by vets and welfare groups in the UK.

Circuses in England wishing to have wild animals would need to demonstrate that they meet The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has reacted with disappointment at the Government’s decision to introduce licensing rather than imposing an outright ban, while the RSPCA says it is “furious that the government has decided to ignore public opinion“.

Announcing the proposed licensing scheme, environment secretary Caroline Spelman said circuses in England wishing to have wild animals would need to demonstrate that they meet “high animal welfare standards for each animal” before they can be granted a licence.

She said: “Where circuses do choose to show wild animals, people expect those animals to be kept in the best possible conditions. Circuses won’t be allowed to use wild animals in their performances if they cannot meet these high welfare standards.”

The welfare needs of non-domesticated, wild animals cannot be met within the environment of a travelling circus, says BVA president Harvey Locke.According to the BVA, DEFRA claimed a ban on circus animals can not currently be introduced in the UK because a ban introduced in Austria is currently being challenged under European law.

However, association president Harvey Locke said: “The welfare needs of non-domesticated, wild animals cannot be met within the environment of a travelling circus; especially in terms of accommodation and the ability to express normal behaviour. A licensing scheme will not address these issues.”

He added: “As soon as the Austria situation is resolved, we would urge the Government to reconsider and take action to prohibit the exploitation of these majestic animals whose existence in the confines of a circus is solely to entertain people.”

RSPCA director of communications David Bowles said: “The RSPCA is furious that the Government appear to have done a complete u-turn on the issue…”
 
He said: “The public have made their feelings very clear on this issue. Of more than 10,500 analysed responses to its 2010 consultation, 94% favoured a ban. The overwhelming public response to the plight of Anne the elephant – the last elephant touring with a UK circus – is also a clear indicator of how people feel.”

 

  • The Government will now consult on the standards, which will be drawn up following discussion with welfare experts and other interested parties.
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