The British government have finally announced circus animals will be banned from performances.
After a public consultation in which 94.5 per cent of the public said they would support such a ban, Westminster has finally followed in the footsteps of Scotland, where circus animals were banned last year.
The move is hoped to combat the widespread maltreatment of circus animals, from unsanitary conditions to forced labour through punishment, starvation and incarceration.
The remaining 19 beasts currently entertaining crowds include six reindeer, four zebras, three camels, three raccoons, a zebu cattle, a macaw and a fox.
Over half of UK local authorities already refused to allow circuses which utilised animals to perform in their boroughs and more than 40 different countries around the world, including most of Europe, Latin America and several Asian countries, had outlawed the practice.
Finally, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have followed suit (DEFRA).
The Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012 now reads:
The Government intends to ensure a legislative ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses is in place by the time the Regulations expire in January 2020. The current regulations expire on 19 January 2020.
The Government does not intend to renew the regulations as it intends to ensure that a legislative ban is introduced by then. The regulations will then be allowed to expire.
A DEFRA spokeswoman said:
We remain absolute in our commitment to banning wild animals in circuses and intend to introduce the ban prior to the regulations expiring in January 2020.
Until we are able to achieve this, we will impose the strictest possible standards to ensure the welfare needs of these animals are met.
However, as the issue is devolved, the ban will only apply in England and not in Northern Ireland or Wales.
RSPCA spokesman David Bowles said:
This announcement gives circuses a clear two-year warning that no more licences will be issued and after that there will be a ban on wild animals in circuses.
The complex needs of wild animals can never be adequately met in a circus environment and regular transport, cramped and bare temporary housing, forced training and performance are all unavoidable realities for the animals.
The RSPCA is keen to work with the circus industry to make arrangements for the best possible retirements for the wild animals.
— PETA UK (@PETAUK) February 9, 2016
Historically, wild animals were captured and cruelly tamed for circuses throughout the 20th century, from P. T. Barnum’s so-called Greatest Show on Earth to the Ringling Brothers’ performances.
Ringling Bros. gave its final performance – including a 12 minute tiger act – back in May 2017, and while their head trainer credited the circus with raising and caring for eleven generations of big cat, others were happy to see the practice end.
The Greatest Showman has been criticised for glossing over the cruelty of the circus:
Nowadays, it's quite unsettling to see photographs from circus shows which demand elephants stand on their hind legs, tigers jump through hoops of flames and lions beg like domestic pets at events such as The Moscow State Circus, orchestrated by animal taming brothers, Edgard and Askold Zapashny.
Behind the scenes investigations show the animals - owned by showmen like these - from wild stallions to grizzly bears and zebra, kept in cages, behind the glitz and glamour.
UNILAD investigated the widespread cruelty towards animals in Meat The End:
Meanwhile, animal rights campaigners welcome this small step to protect the safety of circus animals and are looking for means to rehabilitate the innocent creatures.
Elisa Allen, Director at PETA, told UNILAD:
PETA welcomes the news the government has finally committed to a ban on wild-animal circuses – but it's overdue already and shouldn't have to wait until 2020.
Also, we heard this kind of hedged promise before when David Cameron assured us – after more than 94 per cent of respondents to a government consultation demanded a ban – wild animal circuses would be a thing of the past by 2015.
Yet here we are, lagging behind the more than 30 other countries, including Scotland and Ireland, that have now done away with these bitterly cruel acts.
She concluded: "Animals are suffering now – there's no excuse or reason for the continued delay. It's time the government stepped up for animals and brought in the much-needed legislation."
Hopefully this marks the final curtain for cruelty to circus animals here in England, it couldn't come soon enough.