Scotland’s ban on travelling circus animals needs to be improved, says Committee


A new Bill that would stop the use of wild animals performing or being displayed in travelling circuses in Scotland needs to be strengthened, says a Holyrood Committee.

The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee has published a report today outlining key recommendations to improve the Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Bill, which aims to address ethical concerns of such displays in travelling circuses.

If brought into law, it would be an offence for a circus operator to use wild animals as part of a travelling circus. The Bill also includes the power to enter premises and vehicles in order to search for and examine animals.

Convener of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee Graeme Dey MSP said:

“Our Committee is fully supportive of Scotland’s ambition to be the first part of the UK to ban wild animals in travelling circuses.

“However, during scrutiny of the proposed Bill, it became clear there was a level of ambiguity arising from the lack of definition of what constitutes a circus which could potentially create loopholes in the legislation and the possibility of it not fulfilling its intended purpose.

“Similarly, many of our witnesses – which ranged from circus owners and performers to animal rights charities and local authorities – raised concerns over the definition of a wild animal.

“To avoid misinterpretation of the Bill, we’ve asked the Scottish Government to reflect upon these points and ensure the relevant definitions are clear so as to ensure the legislation achieves what it sets out to.”

Some of the key recommendations in the report include the following:

  • The Bill should include a definition of “circus”.
  • The Committee believes that the definitions within the Bill are open to interpretation and strongly recommends these are tightened.
  • The Bill is at risk of not fully addressing the issues it has been proposed to cover and capturing animal performances it had not intended to.


Read the full report on Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Bill.

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