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Animal Welfare: Circuses

Volume 502: debated on Monday 7 December 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the merits of banning the use of wild animals in circuses; and if he will make a statement. (303056)

During the passage of the Animal Welfare Bill through Parliament a Circus Working Group was established consisting of representatives of welfare organisations and the circus industry, together with an academic panel from the scientific community. The group was charged with examining the issues relating to the transportation and housing needs of wild animals (i.e. animals not normally domesticated in the British Isles) used for performance in travelling circuses. The conclusions were that there was not enough evidence to show that the welfare of wild animals in circuses is any better or worse than those in other captive environments and that available scientific evidence was insufficient to justify regulations being introduced to ban wild animals being used in circus performance.

In the light of these conclusions we commenced a feasibility study on the possibility of introducing regulations. The first element, a report and recommendations from two zoo inspectors who have undertaken visits to both travelling circuses and winter quarters, has now been completed. The findings of the first element have been discussed with representatives of welfare and industry organisations and we are aiming for completion by the end of the year.