Around the world, the issue of animals being used for entertainment is facing scrutiny. Whether it’s captive cetaceans at SeaWorld or cruelty allegations at Crufts, there is a spotlight on these “working” creatures. This is especially true of circus animals.
When it comes to this issue, there has been a lot of toing and froing within the current government. Although 97% of the UK public want a ban on wild animals being used in circuses, the Prime Minister supports the bill, and major animal charities have condemned their use. The bill has been choked out at every turn by three Tory backbenchers, being blocked by MP Andrew Rosindell for the twelfth and final time in March. This has been incredibly frustrating for animal lovers among the public and in the Commons.
What has happened under the current government is that wild animals used in circuses must be licensed. Of the 20 working wild animals in UK circuses, most are camels, zebras and snakes. No elephants, big cats or great apes are currently in use. This falls into line with the recommendations of the EFRA committee who suggested that a total ban on the use of wild animals was a “step too far” and that, instead, there should be a prescribed list of allowed animals. The committee claimed that the distinction between certain wild performing animals and domesticated ones wasn’t clear.
31 countries, including EU member states, have banned the use of some if not all animals in circuses. As a nation that has historically placed benchmarks for animal welfare legislation it is unusual for the UK to lag so far behind the curve. The bill has support from all of the main parties, but it seems that it will continue to be blocked unless it is guillotined or presented as a government bill in the future. Our survey revealed that pet owners place banning of circus animals as their 6th most important animal welfare issue.