Strict new rules for circuses keeping wild animals

Steve Brine has welcomed a Government announcement that will introduce a strict licensing regime in order to ensure that the highest standards of animal welfare are in place for the remaining 39 wild animals being used in circuses.

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

Some media reports had suggested the Government were looking at self-regulation, but this option has not been taken and a rigorous licensing regime will deliver the highest animal welfare standards in this important area.

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.

Winchester and Chandler's Ford MP Steve Brine said: "I know that there have been calls for an outright ban on performing animals in circuses. This is something the last Government spent a great deal of time considering but ultimately did not bring into force."

Austria did introduce a ban, but this is now being challenged under European law by the European Circus Association.

Steve added: "After the dreadful story of Annie the elephant, I am extremely pleased the government has acted on the issue."

The decision to introduce a strict licensing regime will begin shortly by consulting welfare experts and interested parties on the specific standards in the license. The licensing regime will be enacted through the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and apply in England only. It will be enforced through inspections by Government-approved vets.