Vets and animal welfare organisations have slammed the Government after a draft bill to ban the use of wild animals in circuses was not included in yesterday’s (June 4, 2014) Queen’s speech.

Image: UK Parliament

According to the organisations – including the British Veterinary Association (BVA), the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) and Animal Defenders International – the omission came despite a Government commitment to the policy in 2012.

BVA president Robin Hargreaves – whose association has been campaigning for the ban alongside the Captive Animals’ Protection Society, the Born Free Foundation and the RSPCA – said the lack of mention of the bill was “disappointing“.

“We know parliamentary time is precious, but with significant public and political support for a ban and a draft bill on the table, there is no reason the legislation cannot be progressed quickly,” he said.

“We urge the Government to find time to bring forward the bill for debate and work with the devolved nations to secure a ban across the whole of the UK.”

The RSPCA’s head of public affairs David Bowles, meanwhile, said the impact of circuses on animal welfare is “serious and potentially debilitating“, with animals “forced to endure constant travel, cramped temporary cages and the noisy conditions of a circus”.

“It is not a quaint tradition that harks back to Victorian times,” he said. “It is an archaic and heartless practice that must be stopped completely. The lack of introduction of a complete ban is itself outdated.

“The British public have a better understanding of animal welfare than the UK Government are giving them credit for. 94% of people who responded to a Defra consultation on this subject wanted a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.

“The recognition of animals as sentient beings is now widely accepted across the world and legislation is slowly catching up – except for here in the UK and it is unacceptable.”

The RSPCA said it will “continue to push” for the ban to be implemented despite the omission from the speech.

The Queen’s speech – which takes place at the state opening of Parliament – outlines new legislation for the upcoming year. This year there were 11 new bills, compared to 2013’s 19. In her speech, the Queen said 2014’s bills – which covered areas such as tax-free childcare, pension reforms and help for small businesses – aim to “build an economy that rewards those who work hard“.

For more information, visit the Parliament’s website.

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