Plans to ban wild animals in circuses announced

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image captionA Siberian tiger at a foundation in the Netherlands which rescues retired circus animals

Plans to ban the use of wild animals in circuses in Wales have been announced by the rural affairs secretary.

Lesley Griffiths said she was "exploring opportunities" to bring in a ban similar to one agreed by the Scottish Parliament before Christmas.

There are no circuses based in Wales but "they do visit and it is important the welfare needs of their animals are not overlooked", Ms Griffiths said.

The RSPCA said it was "absolutely delighted" by the news.

The animal welfare charity said it had been campaigning on the issue for around two decades.

In a written statement, Ms Griffiths said she intended to learn from MSP's scrutiny of the Scottish legislation, "particularly discussion of ethical and welfare arguments for a ban".

She said the new Welsh law should ensure the ban does not effect mobile animal exhibits (MAEs), such as travelling falconry and hawking displays, exotic pets taken into schools for education purposes and reindeer at Christmas events.

Ms Griffiths said ministers would launch a consultation on introducing a licensing scheme for MAEs later this year.

'Cruel practice'

Claire Lawson from RSPCA Cymru said it was a "momentous day for animals - with the sight of wild animals touring in circuses in Wales set to be consigned to the history books once and for all".

"The RSPCA has fought for years to see this ban become a reality - and we are absolutely delighted that the Welsh Government has confirmed its intention to bring forward legislation to end this outdated and cruel practice on this country's soil."

Linda Joyce Jones, who presented a petition with around 3,800 signatures to the Welsh Government in January calling for a ban, welcomed the news and said she "hopes it will lead to legislation".

"I'm glad they listened to the people who signed my petition," she said. "Over 30 countries have banned this practice all over the world including Scotland and Ireland. I hope Wales will do same."

A ban on wild animals in all circuses in the Republic of Ireland came into force in January.

A total of 18 other EU countries have banned or restricted the use of wild animals in travelling circuses, in addition to 14 other countries.

A UK government review in 2007 found insufficient evidence to support a science-based ban on welfare grounds.

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