Scotland bans circuses using lions and elephants

Animal rights campaigners are celebrating after Scotland became the first country in the UK to ban the use of wild animals in circuses.

A lion appears with a trainer at a circus in Waverley Market.
A lion appears with a trainer at a circus in Waverley Market.

MSPs voted unanimously to pass the Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Bill by 112 votes to zero.

The final stage of the Bill was approved by parliamentarians and will see Scotland become the 19th European country to outlaw wild animals in circuses.

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Although lions, tigers and elephants were once commonplace in circuses, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham acknowledged that such shows “rarely visit Scotland now”.

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But she added: “The bill is therefore a preventative measure based on ethical concerns about the use of animals in travelling circuses in general. It makes a clear statement to the world that the Scottish people respect the innate character of wild animals and will not tolerate their subjection to a nomadic lifestyle as a spectacle for entertainment.”

Ms Cunningham said concerns about the wording of the bill had been answered, in particular the definitions of wild animals and travelling circuses.

In the past, it had been feared that loose definitions could have criminalised events such as llama displays at the Royal Highland Show and entertainment involving the Cairngorm rein-deer.

Libby Anderson of the anti-animal cruelty charity OneKind said: “After years of campaigning by OneKind, I’m delighted that Scotland has become the first country in the UK to ban the use of wild animals in circuses. Today’s historic announcement means that never again will we have to see lions, tigers and elephants suffering in cramped trucks, being made to perform tricks purely for people’s entertainment.”

She added that a Scottish Government consultation in 2014 showed overwhelming support for a ban of wild animals in circuses in Scotland.

Ninety-eight per cent of the 2,034 people who responded thought the use of wild animals for performance in travelling circuses should be banned, and 96.4 per cent thought the use of wild animals in exhibition (without performing) in travelling circuses should be banned.

Donald Cameron of the Scottish Tories said: “We have all agreed that on animal welfare and ethical grounds it is correct that we now ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses.It will ensure that shows and exhibitions that adhere to high standards which are presently set out will be able to continue operating. Whilst ensuring that the exploitation of wild animals in the arena of travelling circumstances is now at an end. As a result of the passage of this historic bill on to the Statute Book we will in Scotland, finally, and at last truly, be able to say that `Nelly the Elephant has packed her trunk and said goodbye to the circus’.”