Animal rights activists are hoping for a major victory in their campaign to end the use of live animals in performances like circuses as Scotland is set to become the first country in the United Kingdom to pass a law banning their use in entertainment shows. 

The “Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Bill” was introduced to Scotland’s parliament Wednesday, with a strong chance at becoming a law. 

In September, Scottish lawmakers proposed the bill which bans non-domesticated animals from travelling, performing, or being put on display in static conditions. 

The bill also states that offenders could face legal action and fines of $6,440 (£5,000) for any violations. 

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“These measures have been carefully designed to improve standards of animal welfare in Scotland,” Roseanna Cunningham, Scotland’s environmental secretary, who introduced the bill to parliament said

“Scotland is a nation of animal lovers and we take this issue very seriously. The bill we have introduced bans the use of wild animals in travelling circuses, which is widely considered to be morally unacceptable in the present day,” she said

Animal rights groups have cited both welfare and ethical problems as cause for the legislation, according to the Sunday Post

The ban aims to respect the natural behavior and ethical treatment of animals such as like tigers, elephants, lions, and bears. 

“This legislation is important as it confirms Scotland’s status as a wild animal circus-free zone, and reflects the overwhelming weight of public opinion that these shows have had their day.  We urge MSPs of all parties to give this Bill a safe passage and pave the way for a Scotland where animals are not needlessly exploited in the name of entertainment,” Libby Andersen, a policy advisor for animal rights group, OneKind, said. 

This is the second time Scotland has added animal rights into law because of morality. In 2002, the country banned fur farming for ethical reasons. 

Animal Defenders International, the Born Free Foundation, OneKind, and Captive Animals’ Protection Society are encouraging Scottish members of parliament to support the bill. 

But animal rights activists are not the only supporters of ending wild animal acts in circuses.

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In 2015 the Scottish government published a report and found that 95.8% of of 2,043 people surveyed supported a ban on wild animals travelling in performing circuses. One year later, More For Scotland’s Animals found that 75% of those polled favored a ban on wild animals in circus performances. 

According to Animals Defenders International, 35 countries, including Mexico, Singapore, and Bolivia have restrictions on wild animal performances. Scotland’s parliament could make the country number 18 in Europe to ban wild animal use in circuses by the end of the month. 

You can track the bill’s progress here


Defend the Planet

Scotland to Become First in UK to Ban Wild Animals from Circus Acts

By Meghan Werft