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Ethical and sustainable conservation can’t be achieved with endangered animals in hunters’ cross-hairs Partner content
By Earl Russell
Press releases

We’ll ban wild animals in circuses and end this demeaning practice for good

4 min read

This country is rightly proud of its commitment to the protection and care of animals. It’s time we banned the use of wild animals in circuses, writes animal welfare minister David Rutley 

This country’s regard and respect for wild animals, and our sense of their intrinsic value, are now much more important to us than allowing them to be used for entertainment.

That’s why the government is making sure this will be the last generation of performing wild animals in circuses, by introducing a legal ban.

Many members of the public may have believed this outdated practice stopped long ago. But some wild animals remain in circuses, and the government believes now is the time to end this unpopular situation for good.

The government’s bill, which bans wild animals from performing and being exhibited in travelling circuses, fulfils a long-term commitment and is testament to the campaigning of too many dedicated colleagues to thank here.

A truth universally acknowledged across the House, even at such a challenging time, is that this country is rightly proud of its place in the world for the protection and care of animals.

We see this in the generous public donations to animal charities, and those of us privileged to represent the public in parliament recognise that the country supports strong action. The postbags of parliamentarians from all parties bulge with correspondence from constituents concerned for the dignity of all animals.

At Defra, we are securing the good of wild animals not only at home but also overseas, as we work to honour our manifesto pledge to leave our environment in a better state than we inherited it, and show international leadership on behalf of the natural world.

Across the world, international demand for ivory contributes to the death of more than 20,000 elephants every year. When we introduced our Ivory Bill – which will put in place one of the toughest bans on elephant ivory in the world – over 70,000 people wrote to Defra to ask us to put an end to the domestic trade in ivory, sending the unambiguous message that ivory should never be seen as a status symbol. We are listening – and we will shortly be calling for evidence on whether to extend the ban to other ivory-bearing species.

Of course, it is important for us to learn about the importance and wonder of wild animals, but we can learn nothing about them while they are being demeaned in circus routines.

Following our ban, circuses will be able to care for animals in their retirement, while devising other ingenious acts – not involving wild animals – to entertain the paying public.

This bill is emblematic of where society stands now; of how much this country cares about conserving the most magnificent animals which share our planet, and of our commitment to safeguarding the future of totemic species and their habitats.

We are committed to enhancing our well-deserved worldwide reputation for caring for animals after we leave the EU. This ban is another important measure to protect and improve the lives of animals; from strengthening the protection of service animals through Finn’s Law, to ensuring puppies and kittens are no longer sold by unscrupulous third-party sellers, and combating the illegal wildlife trade.

The catastrophic decline in species identified in recent scientific studies has strengthened our resolve to tackle the twin challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change.

Decisive domestic action will bolster our international leadership ahead of a pivotal year in 2020, when we hope to host COP26 in London – one of three meetings at which the world will agree new targets for action in defence of our climate, ocean and biodiversity.

Defra ministers are grateful for the continued support of colleagues across the House for our efforts to protect the welfare of animals and ensure a sustainable future in our shared planet.

David Rutley is Conservative MP for Macclesfield and animal welfare minister 


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