Scotland politics

Scottish government considering wild animal circus ban

Lion in captivity Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Concerns were raised about the big cats being kept in small cages

The Scottish government will "look carefully" at changing the law to ban circuses from using wild animals, the environment secretary has said.

Richard Lochhead made the announcement at Holyrood after it emerged five big cats are spending the winter in cages in Aberdeenshire.

Two lions and three tigers arrived on a farm in St Combs, near Fraserburgh, last month, according to Mr Lochhead.

MSP Kevin Stewart raised concerns about the big cats' welfare.

The Aberdeen Central MSP drew attention to their "small cages" and asked Mr Lochhead whether ministers would step in and ban circuses from using wild animals.

Mr Stewart said 28 countries had already implemented bans on the use of wild animals in circuses, according to reports.

Mr Lochhead said the government is looking at how to bring in quicker changes and said ministers had carried out a consultation on banning the use of wild animals in travelling circuses on "ethical grounds" earlier this year.

'Ethical' legislation

Mr Lochhead told MSPs that the 2,000 responses were being analysed. He said the government recognised the concerns around the issue and promised it would "look carefully" into the possible options for implementing such a ban.

He added that two male lions, two male tigers and an elderly female tiger had arrived at the site near Fraserburgh in October at the end of the circus season.

Mr Lochhead stated: "Scottish government officials are in close contact with Aberdeenshire Council, who are responsible for ensuring animal welfare and public safety needs are met and the required licence under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 is in place.

"I also understand the animals are not at this time attached to any particular circus.

"I do want Scotland to be progressive, the fact that we are considering moving legislation forward on the basis of ethical grounds means we have to clarify an exact legal route to do so."

Mr Lochhead said that after he discovered the animals were spending the winter period at St Combs he had urged his officials to provide details on "how we can improve the timescale of bringing forward legislative action".

He also stressed the Scottish government was "paying close attention to events elsewhere in the UK", with similar legislation being proposed south of the border.

He said: "We're paying very close attention to this and we will move as quickly as we can."

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