Posted: 21 October 2013. Updated: 29 October 2013

Defra Minister Lord de Mauley has confirmed to ADI that the Government will press ahead with legislation to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses but a loophole will still allow circuses to continue to tour with these animals provided they are not displayed.

ADI and MPs say this will make a mockery of the draft legislation which has widespread public and political support and are calling for the law to be strengthened.

Lord de Mauley made the statement during a meeting, held on 21 October with ADI and Mark Pritchard MP (pictured below) – whose backbench debate led to the unanimous vote for a ban on wild animals in circuses in June 2011 – ahead of the publication of Defra’s response to the report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) on the draft Wild Animals in Circuses Bill, published on 22 October. (Read more on this here)

Under the Bill the Government seeks to ban the use of wild animals in circuses by December 2015. However only the “use” of animals – namely the performance and the display – will be prohibited, meaning that wild animals in circuses will continue to be subjected to the same inherent welfare problems associated with the travelling circus that they currently endure.

Jan Creamer, Chief Executive of ADI: “The public has spoken and has made itself very clear that it wants the government to stop circus suffering. This can only be achieved however by prohibiting both the transportation AND use of wild animals and we call on Defra to revise the wording of the Bill to reflect this.”

0056 No escape from the circus for wild animals despite ban

ADI was pleased to hear Lord de Mauley state that Defra did not agree that the ban should apply solely to elephants and big cats. ADI had previously expressed its profound disappointment at this ill-informed suggestion by EFRA, which flies in the face of overwhelming public opposition to the use of ALL wild animals in circuses, which has remained consistently high for over 15 years.

Time however is running out for the legislation to be introduced ahead of the proposed implementation date of December 2015.

Mark Pritchard MP: “I am glad that the ban on wild animals in circuses is finally being drafted into legislation. However, the Government now needs to find time to bring forward the legislation in the next legislative programme. There also needs to be provision made for the real likelihood that, even with a ban in effect, circuses may still keep wild animals and travel with them, meaning that many of the obvious welfare issues will still not be addressed. I encourage everyone to write to their MP calling for the legislation to be implemented”

As had been feared, by delaying action on the circus ban the government has opened the door to new wild animal acts and further animal suffering. A new lion and tiger act presented by Thomas Chipperfield – a relative of the notorious Mary Chipperfield, who was prosecuted for animal cruelty following an ADI expose in the late 1990s – is now performing with Jolly’s Circus, one of two remaining English circuses to perform with wild animals, and the only act of its kind in the country.

Take action

  • Contact Lord de Mauley at and urge him to revise the wording of the Bill to prohibit circuses from travelling with wild animals.
  • Ask your MP to support the rewording of the Bill (download our template letter here and the swift implementation of the ban – find out who your MP is and contact them here

Find out more

  • Read our Q&A about wild animals in circuses here
  • More on our Stop Circus Suffering UK campaign here
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