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Circus animal ban is ‘too restrictive’, MPs warn

Government plans for a blanket ban on the use of all wild animals in travelling circuses go “too far”, according to MPs scrutinising the proposed legislation.

MPs on the environment, food and rural affairs committee said that the legislation should be revised so that some animals are exempt from the ban.

In its current form, the proposals would mean that travelling circuses caught using any wild animals could be fined up to £5,000.

Committee chair Anne McIntosh said: “The committee agrees with the government that the days when it was appropriate to have animals like lions or elephants travelling with circuses are long past, but the ban proposed in draft legislation goes too far in restricting the type of animals which travelling circuses might use.”

She added: “We believe that there should be a ban on big cat species and elephants, but it is possible to argue that, for example, camels, zebra or snakes can continue to have a place in the travelling circus.”

The committee argued that the government’s current licensing system, which came into effect earlier this year as an interim measure, should continue to apply to those animals that are not outright banned.

“The government itself accepts that there is no overwhelming welfare case for a ban on wild animals in travelling circuses, and there is already legislation to deal with any welfare abuse, such as the case involving Anne the Asian elephant [1],” said McIntosh.

Currently, travelling circuses must secure a licence before including wild animals in a performance or exhibition.

Two groups, Mondao Circus and Peter Jolly’s Circus, have obtained this permission so far.

If approved, the government’s proposed legislation would come into effect in England from December 2015.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are currently in discussions with the government to create a UK-wide ban.