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Travelling circuses will be banned from using wild animals from 2020, the UK Government has pledged.
The ban – which will come into place on January 19 2020 – will bring English law in line with Scottish legislation brought in last year.
The announcement was made during a review of the Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012. According to the review report: “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.”
Animal campaigners have said they are happy to hear a ban will be put in place after years of work.
Jan Creamer, president of Animal Defenders International, said: “Having campaigned to stop circus suffering around the world for over 20 years, we’re delighted that a ban is finally imminent.
“Circuses cannot meet the needs of animals in small, mobile accommodation and ADI has repeatedly documented suffering and abuse.
“We congratulate the UK Government on consigning this outdated act to the past where it belongs.”
The RSPCA’s David Bowles added: “The news that the Government has said there will be no wild animals in circuses in England after the 2019 season or earlier is very welcome and comes as a huge relief.
“It’s been a long-time coming. 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.”
Ireland and Scotland have recently passed similar bans. Plans for legislation are being discussed in Wales.