The Scottish Government has suggested that the future ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in England could be extended to cover Scotland, thereby ensuring that circuses do not simply move their operations north of the border once the ban finally comes in.
In response to the OneKind petition to the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government says that it is aware of concerns that the new licensing regulations for England might push circuses currently based in England over the border into Scotland.
In December, the Scottish Parliament Public Petitions Committee asked the Scottish Government about its commitment to a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses coming to Scotland.
The official response from the Scottish Government’s Animal Welfare Team Leader informed the Committee that:
“the Parliamentary Under Secretary for Defra recently wrote to the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment. The letter outlined Defra’s plans to introduce primary legislation to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses and offered to extend the scope of that legislation to Scotland.
“This is an offer that is being seriously considered; however, clarification of the legalities of a ban in Scotland and proper consultation remain the first steps before any legislative action can be taken, and there are, of course, processes that would need to be followed to allow Defra to draft legislation on behalf of the Scottish Government. Unfortunately we are still awaiting clarification of the legalities surrounding a ban on wild animals in travelling circuses in Scotland; however I am hopeful that we will obtain that clarification in the New Year and that plans can then be put in place for a consultation on the matter.”
OneKind welcomes this response to its petition. There are no travelling circuses with animals based in Scotland and a growing number of local authorities no longer let public land to these businesses. However, animal circuses have threatened to move to Scotland in the past and it is essential that any new legislation to ban wild animal circuses is consistent throughout mainland Britain. OneKind believes that there are no legal obstacles to banning wild animal circuses on moral grounds, on the same basis as the fur farming ban in 2002.
Libby Anderson, OneKind Policy Director, said:
“There are many important animal welfare issues awaiting regulation in Scotland and, as long as there is no undue delay, we see this as a proportionate response to the risk that circuses may bring wild animals back to Scotland. We are very grateful to the Public Petitions Committee for questioning the Scottish Government about its commitment to a ban and we await further developments in this area.
“Our surveys over the years have shown a high level of public support for a ban on travelling circuses with wild animals – and indeed, for any animals. We look forward to the day when animals are no longer transported, confined and made to perform unnatural tricks for public entertainment.”