AMs back petition calling for a ban on circus wild animal use

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This is a first for Senedd Home by being the first debate on a public petition covered here. As you probably know, petitions submitted to the Senedd that achieve 5,000 or more signatures trigger a plenary debate.

P-05-796 Calling on the Welsh Government to ban the use of wild animals in circuses
Submitted by Linda Evelyn Joyce Jones
Signatures: 6,398 (online and paper)

The Petition’s Supporting Evidence

  • Animal welfare is a devolved responsibility.
  • The Welsh Government said in 2015 there was no place for the use of wild animals in circuses.
  • A report, published in 2016, said wild animals do not enjoy “optimal” welfare standards when used in circuses and mobile zoos.
  • A licensing system – which is preferred by the Welsh Government and currently used in England – is only a temporary measure and two circuses have consistently breached them in England.
  • An RSPCA poll found 74% of the Welsh public were in favour of a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.

Key Points

Ever eager to appear to be on the side of public opinion, there were lots of speakers and lots of repetition so I’ve had to be much stricter in terms of what points to include or not.

Chair of the Petitions Committee, David Rowlands AM (UKIP, South Wales East)

  • Despite a majority in favour of a ban, the Welsh Government are yet to commit to one. The petition was submitted because of the failure to move forward with a ban.
  • A ban has been put in place in 35 other countries including Scotland and the Republic of Ireland; the UK Government are also considering ending the practice.
  • He acknowledged a statement in February 2018 that said the Welsh Government were looking to bring forward legislation for a ban; it could be done easily by using the same powers used to institute a ban on shock collars.

Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.)

  • The practice is “outdated, unnecessary and puts the welfare of animals travelling as part of a circus at risk”.
  • It’s disappointing the Welsh Government are only acting now; consideration should be given to a joint ban with the UK Government.
  • A rationale for a ban needs to be properly explained; would it be due to performance (which could see Christmas reindeer parades banned) or exclusively on animal welfare concerns?

Bethan Sayed AM (Plaid, South Wales West)

  • How we treat animals is a reflection of society as a whole.
  • Circus operators that have been denied licenses in England are already trying to get licenses to perform in Wales – we can’t afford to be left “in limbo”.

Hefin David AM (Lab, Caerphilly)

  • Circus operators don’t care about local by-laws, it requires a national law change.
  • He was pleased to see the level of informed opposition to a travelling show using lions and tigers in his constituency.

Michelle Brown AM (UKIP, North Wales)

  • When licenses were introduced in Wales for puppy farms, the powers were delegated to local councils who were already under strain so conditions in puppy farms have remained largely unchanged; licensing is only as good as enforcement.

Mick Antoniw AM (Lab, Pontypridd)

  • There was strong support for a ban amongst constituents (albeit from a small sample) and support for powers over fox hunting to be devolved as well.

Janet Finch-Saunders AM (Con, Aberconwy)

  • The petitioner submitted evidence on the types of injuries animals suffer, including a leg injury to a lion and open sores on a baby camel.

Simon Thomas AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales)

  • We need to consider the recent events at Borth Zoo in any debate on animal welfare – it’s not just about circuses.
  • The ban doesn’t even need new legislation, just regulations that could be passed by the Senedd under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Vikki Howells AM (Lab, Cynon Valley)

  • Circus life causes stress and behavioural issues amongst wild animals; physical and mental stimulation needs are also rarely met.

Caroline Jones AM (UKIP, South Wales West)

  • Only two circuses in England have wild animals licenses and have nothing bigger or more dangerous than a reindeer and a zebra.
  • There’s nothing to stop Wales becoming a “dumping ground” for circuses that have been banned in other countries.

Joyce Watson AM (Lab, Mid & West Wales)

  • She’s opposed to reindeer being used during Christmas festivities; reindeer “weren’t meant to stand for hours in concrete yards”.

Welsh Government Response

Secretary for Energy, Planning & Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham)

  • The Secretary confirmed her support for a ban on wild animals in circuses, work has been ongoing since winter 2016.
  • There are two issues: looking at when a slot for new legislation is available and whether the use of regulations alone would prompt a legal challenge.
  • Any new law could be introduced during the 2018-19 session, regulations could be introduced earlier.
  • She was happy for Wales to be included in proposals by the UK Government for a ban, but progress was “too slow”.
  • A licensing scheme for mobile animal exhibits (i.e. where animals don’t perform) is still being taken forward and is a separate issue to a circus ban.


A vote to note the petition was unanimously approved.

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