RSPCA Cymru has welcomed the Welsh Government’s decision to bring forward a licensing scheme for travelling animal shows – also known as mobile animal exhibits (MAEs) – but insist new rules must ensure an end to the use of wild animals in circuses across the country.
Falconry displays, mobile petting zoos and Christmas reindeer events are all set to be impacted by the new rules – and RSPCA Cymru hopes licensing will mean adherence to key animal welfare standards is a condition of such travelling animal shows operating.
Many hundreds of RSPCA Cymru supporters took action and submitted consultation responses to the Welsh Government, urging action both on the licensing of travelling animal shows; and an end to the use of wild animals in circuses.
On Thursday (14 December), the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Rural Affairs and the Environment confirmed that officials had been tasked “with the development of a licensing scheme for MAEs”, supported by a process of “engagement with stakeholders and enforcement agencies”.
In response, Dr Ros Clubb, the RSPCA’s senior scientific manager, specialising in captive wild animals, said: “It’s very positive and welcome news that the Welsh Government is set to proceed with a licensing scheme for mobile animal exhibits in Wales, and RSPCA Cymru is grateful to all of our supporters who urged them to act on this issue.
“Many animals face unique and challenging lives in travelling exhibits, like falconry displays, mobile petting zoos and Christmas reindeer events.
“A licensing scheme – if associated animal welfare standards and enforcement are sufficiently rigorous – will offer much-needed protection to many animals across the country, put an end to harmful practices, and offer important assurances to the public about welfare standards.
“However, we remain steadfast in our commitment to seeing a complete end to the spectre of wild animals being used in touring circuses in Wales.
“If these new rules are to be fully fit-for-purpose, there is no way they should allow wild animals to continue to be subjected to the regular transport, cramped accommodation, forced training and performance which are all unavoidable realities for wild animals in the circus.
“The view of the hundreds of our supporters who responded to this campaign were clear – they wanted action on travelling animal shows, and – crucially – an end to wild animals in touring circuses. Public opinion has been consistently strong on this matter – and polling has shown 74% in Wales support a ban on the practice.
“Life in a travelling circus for wild animals is not a life worth living. Whatever mechanism is used, it is imperative that the practice of using wild animals in circuses in Wales is consigned to the history books once and for all.”
RSPCA Cymru is committed to working closely with the Welsh Government, and other stakeholders, to ensure new rules deliver the best outcome for animals across Wales. More information concerning the charity’s stance regarding wild animals in circuses can be found online.