Scotland will join other nations around the world in showing its commitment to animal welfare if MSPs this week back proposals to outlaw elephants and lions from travelling circuses, a leading animal charity has said.
A ban could be in place by Christmas, making Scotland the first part of the UK to take such a stand, as part of the The Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Bill.
The legislation will be voted on at Holyrood this week. It will also bring an end to lions and tigers being caged north of the Border during the circus off-season after recent cases emerged.
OneKind Policy Advisor Libby Anderson said: “It’s not so long since a traditional travelling circus toured Scotland with an aged, arthritic elephant, and it was a sad sight to see.
“As recently as 2015, there were two circus lions and three tigers confined in cages on a farm near Fraserburgh where they had spent the winter.
“This Bill in the Scottish Parliament is the opportunity to stop wild animals being treated that way, in the name of entertainment.” MSPs are this week voting on the general principles of the Bill. It will then face amendments before a final vote later in the year.
Last week the Estonian Parliament passed a Bill to ban the use of wild animals in circuses and the charity is urging politicians at Holyrood to follow suit.
Ms Anderson added: “Scotland has the chance to join dozens of states around the world in showing commitment to animal welfare by banning the use of wild animals in circuses.”
MSPs on Holyrood’s environment called for the legislation to be tightened up in a report earlier this year. The committee said the definitions of “travelling circus” and “wild animals” were open to interpretation and could be “misused” to cover alternative scenarios. The definition of circus must be sufficiently targeted, MSPs warned, so that it did not capture other kinds of performances.
The committee also criticised the decision to introduce the Bill on ethical grounds rather than animal welfare concerns, arguing the approach was “difficult to justify”.
A Scottish Government consultation in 2014 showed the majority of the 2,034 people who responded were in favour of banning wild animals in circuses in Scotland.