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Wild animals in travelling circuses


The issue of wild animals in travelling circuses has been a source of longstanding unease to many.  Significant concerns were raised regarding the use of wild animals in travelling circuses during the Scottish Government’s 2004 consultation on the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Bill, which became the 2006 Act. 

Since then, a steady stream of letters to Scottish Government Ministers from MSPs, the general public and animal welfare organisations, has shown that ongoing concerns not only involve perceived animal welfare issues but deal also with the ethical point of whether it is acceptable, in today’s society, to regularly transport wild animals throughout the country in order to make them perform simply for financial gain and public entertainment.


Between January and April 2014, the Scottish Government ran a public consultation on whether the use of wild animals in travelling circuses should be banned in Scotland. A total of 2043 responses were received.  The response was overwhelmingly in favour of a ban, with, amongst other findings, 95.8% respondents of the view that there are no benefits to having wild animals in travelling circuses. 95.7% of respondents also took the view that the concerns surrounding the travelling circus environment could only be resolved by banning wild animals in travelling circuses.

You can access the original consultation at:  http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2014/01/5291 and view the consultation analysis at: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2015/06/1512. The consultation responses are available at: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/06/6762

Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Bill

The First Minister announced in September 2016 that a Bill to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in Scotland would be included in the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government for 2016/17.  This Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 10 May 2017 and was considered by the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee at Stage 1.  The Committee published it’s Stage 1 report on 22 September 2017.  You can access this at:https://sp-bpr-en-prod-cdnep.azureedge.net/published/ECCLR/2017/9/22/Stage-1-Report-on-the-Wild-Animals-in-Travelling-Circuses--Scotland--Bill/ECCLRS052017R9.pdf

The Scottish Government responded to this report and its recommendations on the 4 October and you can view this at: http://www.parliament.scot/S5_Environment/Inquiries/Circus_Bill_-_Stage_1_-__Stage_1_Report_SG_Response_-_RC_to_ECCLR_ctte.pdf

The Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Bill was debated in the Scottish Parliament on 5 October 2017 and was unanimously passed at Stage 1. 

You can view a Q & A on the Bill and the proposed prohibition at: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2017/05/5682

You can keep abreast of progress, access reports of the Parliamentary Committee’s meetings with stakeholders to take evidence on the matter, and view the Bill and its accompanying documents on the Scottish Parliament website at: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/Bills/104493.aspx

Accompanying documents are papers that are drafted and submitted to Parliament for scrutiny alongside the Bill itself.  Their role is to explain the background, justification and likely impact of the Bill: