Scotland is to become the first part of the UK to ban wild animals in travelling circus after the SNP government revealed it intends to end the practice.
The move has been welcomed by animal rights campaigners who are now urging David Cameron to stop “dithering” and impose a similar ban across the UK.
It comes after recent outcry when it emerged that circus big cats were being caged over the winter months in the north of Scotland.
“The Scottish Government intends to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses,” a spokeswoman for ministers said last night.
“We are currently investigating the best mechanism for introducing legislation on ethical grounds and will make further announcements in due course.”
Although there have been no wild animal circuses based in Scotland in recent years, circuses with wild animals have continued to tour the country. It emerged that a circus trainer with a big cat act moved his lions and tigers from England to a farm near Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, prompting calls for a ban. A subsequent consultation carried out by ministers found 98 per cent of Scots backed it
A spokeswoman for animal rights group Peta last night welcomed the ban.
She said: “Peta salutes the government for listening to them and announcing its intention to ban this archaic form of entertainment on ethical grounds. Prime Minister David Cameron should take a leaf out of Holyrood’s book – while he dithers, animals continue to suffer and England falls further and further behind.”
Chris Draper of the Born Free Foundation, said he was “delighted” to hear of the ban, but urged ministers to move quickly.
“We would hate to see Scotland replicate the mistakes and delays that have occurred south of the border, and urge the Scottish Government to act swiftly to end the archaic practice once and for all,” he added.
Greens justice spokesman John Finnie said: “I am delighted the Government intend to ban ‘on ethnical grounds’ and have now asked for a timeframe as it cannot come soon enough for many unfortunate creatures.”
A cross-party group of MPs at Westminster moved a Bill to introduce a ban, but it met opposition from other MPs including ex-environment minister Christopher Chope.