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New licensing regime for wild animals in circuses

High welfare standards for travelling performing wild animals in circuses will be ensured through a strict new licensing regime, UK Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said.

Any circuses in England that wish to have wild animals such as tigers, lions and elephants performing in them will need to demonstrate that they meet high animal welfare standards for each animal before they can be granted a licence to keep those animals.

Areas being considered as part of licensing conditions include:

- the rules for transport of the animal, including how long animals can spend being transported without rest periods;
- the type of quarters that must be provided for the animal, including the size of the quarters and the facilities provided, including winter quarters;
- the treatment of animals by trainers and keepers, including performance and the training methods that may be used.

Caroline Spelman said:

“Most circuses choose not to feature wild animals in their shows, and I believe that most people would prefer not to see them performing in circuses. But where circuses do choose to show wild animals, people expect those animals to be kept in the best possible conditions.

“Circuses won’t be allowed to use wild animals in their performances if they cannot meet these high welfare standards.”

The Government will consult on the standards, which will be drawn up following discussion with welfare experts and other interested parties.

The licensing scheme will be enforced through inspections by Government-approved vets.

In 2009 there were an estimated 39 wild animals being used by circuses in the UK, which included elephants, tigers, lions, camels, zebras and crocodiles. There are now no longer any elephants kept in circuses in the UK.

A ban introduced in Austria is currently being challenged under European law, and the Government is keeping a keen eye on the outcome, but wants to take action as soon as possible to protect wild animals in circuses without waiting for that judgement.

by S. C.
18 may 2011, World News > Europe

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