Scotland has become the first country in the United Kingdom to ban wild animals in travelling circuses.
According to animal welfare campaigners, the legislation, which was passed on Wednesday, is paving the way for the Westminster government to follow suit.
“Captivity is a living hell for animals such as tigers and lions, and a circus environment can’t possibly meet their complex needs,” said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) director Elisa Allen.
“These animals are understandably frustrated, stressed and depressed from a lifetime of being denied the opportunity to do anything that’s natural and important to them, kept caged in trailers that are hauled around the country, and forced to perform confusing tricks under the big top out of some Victorian-era sense of amusement.”
The bill was proposed by Scotland’s Environment Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham. According to Cunningham: “This is an important act that will not only prevent travelling circuses ever showing wild animals in Scotland in the future, but will demonstrate to the wider world that we are one of the growing number of countries that no longer condones the use of wild animals in this way.”
The bill, however, does not include other animal acts, such as greyhound races. It also does not apply to static circuses. In the legislative process, MSPs were concerned about the lack of a definition for a “travelling” circus. This was debated again at committee stage.
However, a survey ran by the Scottish government discovered that more than 95% of respondents were in favour of the ban, and according to The Guardian: “Cunningham explained during the Holyrood debate on Wednesday that the definition of what constitutes a wild animal for the purposes of the ban had been left deliberately general to allow courts to give animals as broad a protection as possible when applying the law.”
Cunningham also noted that while travelling circuses “rarely” visit Scotland, the bill is “a preventative measure based on ethical concerns,” and that travelling circuses that do not include wild animals “will always be welcome in Scotland.”
It’s about time Scotland bans travelling animal circuses. Using animals for entertainment purposes is a thing of the past, and it’s about time we get the rest of the United Kingdom on board too.