Law introduced to ban the use of wild animals by travelling circuses

(Title Image: National Science & Media Museum via Flickr, Copyright Free)

Wild Animals and Circuses Bill
Introduced by Environment, Energy & Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths (Lab, Wrexham)
Bill (pdf)
Explanatory Memorandum (pdf)

Why introduce this Bill?

Calls for a ban on the use of wild animals by circuses go back several years, with a petition debated in the Senedd in March 2018. 97% of people who responded to the consultation on this proposed law agreed with a ban.

Most concerns relate to the conditions in which the animals are kept, the ethical argument about their use in performances and the training methods used to enable such animals to perform in the first place.

When considering their own bans, the UK and Scottish governments concluded there cannot be any conclusive proof that welfare standards were objectively good or bad. However, there was a stronger case for a ban on ethical grounds.

There are now only two travelling circuses based in the UK touring with wild animals – though there are far more on mainland Europe.

The Key Proposal

There’s only one key proposal in the Bill – that it’ll be an offence for travelling circuses to use wild animals for performances or exhibits in Wales. The explanatory memorandum says this won’t extend to, for example, animals used for TV productions.

“Wild animal” has been legally defined as any animal species that isn’t normally domesticated in the British Islands (the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man). This presumably means that domesticated animals like dogs, horses, ponies etc. can still be used in performances as long as legal standards are met – but would there still be legal grey areas for something like a llama or a camel?

Any circus operator found guilty will be liable to an unlimited fine. The Bill also adds various powers of enforcement for local authority appointed inspectors (i.e. the power of entry with a warrant, power of seizure).

How much will the Wild Animals & Circuses Bill cost?

The direct costs relating to the Bill are negligible (£6,000 for guidance) and there’ll actually be an administrative cost saving of £3,500 overall. That’s because travelling circuses with wild animals will no longer be licenced, just outright banned – meaning the Welsh Government and local authorities won’t have to spend time and money responding to complaints and enquiries from the public and animal welfare organisations.

The Welsh Government haven’t been able to quantify the impact on travelling circuses. Welsh ticket revenues for one of the two English-based circuses mentioned earlier (Circus Mondao) was estimated at anything between £100,000 and £400,000. There’s no real difference in ticket prices or attendances between circuses that use or don’t use wild animals – so there’s no “premium” for using them.

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