Wild animals in circuses to be banned in Wales under new law

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The Wild Animals and Circuses (Wales) Bill would make it an offence

Plans to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in Wales are moving a step closer.

New legislation, bringing Wales in line with Scotland, will be introduced to the assembly on Monday.

Welsh Government rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths said wild animals should be "treated with respect".

Her proposals have been welcomed by the RSPCA but a man described as Britain's last lion tamer, Thomas Chipperfield, said the new law was "illiberal".

The Welsh Government said the new law was "overwhelmingly backed" in a recent consultation which had more than 6,500 responses.

There are now only two circuses, which regularly visit Wales, travelling the UK with wild animals.

Similar laws have been passed in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, while legislation to outlaw the practice in England is currently passing through Parliament.

The Welsh legislation will make it an offence for an owner of a travelling circus to use, or permit another person to use, a wild animal in a travelling circus.

Anyone convicted of breaking the law would face an unlimited fine in the courts.

Ms Griffiths said wild animals should not "be exploited for our entertainment".

"The introduction of this bill sends a clear message that this government and the people of Wales believe this practice to be outdated and ethically unacceptable," she said.

Image source, Thomas Chipperfield
Image caption,
Mr Chipperfield is known as "Britain's last lion tamer" and his family's association with performing goes back to 1684 when Chipperfield's Circus was launched

However, Mr Chipperfield, who has worked and performed with travelling circuses in the UK, said the bill was "a very illiberal move".

He said he had owned big cats for the last eight years, but currently owned two African lions, a male Bengal tiger, horses and dogs.

"The animals are a part of the family and suited to this lifestyle," he said.

"It is what they understand, they don't fear what they have a firm grasp of."

In his evidence submitted to the assembly committee, Mr Chipperfield said the issue of wild animals in circuses was "not a major concern" to the British public.

"It shouldn't come to the point where I am stopped from doing a legitimate practice," he added.

Meanwhile, Claire Lawson of RSPCA Cymru said keeping wild animals in travelling circuses had "no place in modern Wales".

"It's great the Welsh Government have taken that on board and acted for these animals," she said.

Head of animal welfare and captivity at wildlife charity Born Free Foundation, Dr Chris Draper, said Wales would join a "long and increasing list" of countries to ban the practice.

"Great Britain may soon be free of circuses with wild animals," he added.

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