Denton and Reddish MP, Andrew Gwynne, is backing the Wild Animals in Circuses (No.2) Bill, which is being debated in the Commons today, and is supporting a Labour moratorium amendment to ensure that loopholes are closed which could see wild animals touring in circuses for a period after the Bill is enacted.
The Bill will make it an offence for an operator of a travelling circus in England to use a “wild animal” (defined as any vertebrate animal of a kind which is not commonly domesticated in Great Britain) in the circus. The Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012 introduced an inspection and licensing regime for circus operators who use wild animals. The regulations expire on 19th January 2020. Operators of travelling circuses in England which currently use wild animals will have until 20 January 2020 before it becomes an offence to use the wild animal in exhibition or performance.
These measures have long been called for. The Labour Government consulted in 2010 on introducing a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses, with the proposals receiving 94% support from respondents. Subsequently, the Tory-LibDem Coalition Government stated in 2012 that it intended to pursue a ban on ethical grounds on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in England. However, in the absence of any compelling scientific evidence that a ban could be justified on welfare grounds, it stated such a ban would require primary legislation.
The Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Act 2018 already prohibits the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in Scotland. A ban in Wales will be introduced in 2019. Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Executive has investigated the possibility of an all-island approach to the issue of wild animals in circuses through adoption of a Code of Practice. The Republic of Ireland banned wild animals in circuses in 2018.
Andrew Gwynne MP said:
“Many people are amazed that wild animal performances are still allowed in circuses in England and that’s why Labour supports this much delayed Bill. It will be unacceptable if new wild animals, possibly including elephants and big cats, are put on a ‘last hurrah’ tour before the ban comes into force in January 2020. Labour’s proposed moratorium amendment will make sure this cannot happen.
“I’m proud that Labour is the party of animal welfare. From the landmark Hunting Act to protecting the treatment of domestic animals under the Animal Welfare Act, we have always placed the welfare of animals high on the policy agenda. That’s why it’s also absolutely right that the party is supporting this Bill today.”