Assembly Members have been urged to use a plenary debate on the use of wild animals in circuses to show their support for anticipated Welsh Government legislation on the key animal welfare issue.

RSPCA has led the campaign to see the “outdated, cruel” practice brought to an end in Wales – and last month (14 February) welcomed news that the Welsh Government confirmed its plan to bring forward legislation to ban the use of wild animals in circuses.

The charity now hopes Assembly Members will utilise a debate today (7 March) to back support for this necessary and significant legislation.

Over 9,000 people previously signed an RSPCA petition calling for action in Wales, while polling commissioned by the animal welfare charity showed that 74 per cent of people within Wales back a ban on wild animals performing in circuses*.

RSPCA Cymru has taken this message to all corners of Wales, via petition, street stalls and hundreds of supporter emails sent directly to the responsible Cabinet Secretary, as part of a wide-ranging public campaign – which has even inspired local campaigners to adopt the issue and urge decision-makers to take action.

The transient nature of circuses – alongside cramped accommodation and forced training for animals – highlights how inappropriate these settings are for wild animals. RSPCA Cymru has fought for some two decades to see this practice brought to an end – and hopes Assembly Members will voice support for a  ”swift, effective and much-needed” ban.

Dr Ros Clubb, the RSPCA’s senior scientific manager, specialising in captive wild animals, said: “Wild animals do not belong in the circus. Their travelling nature, cramped accommodation and forced training means life in this environment severely compromises welfare, and the time has certainly come for the Welsh Government to end this practice once and for all.

“RSPCA Cymru has been at the forefront of the campaign to end the use of wild animals in circuses for decades – and it’s exciting and big news for animal welfare that this campaign is finally nearing a successful outcome.

“There’s huge public support for the RSPCA’s campaign, and this debate offers Assembly Members a great opportunity to voice their support for a swift, effective and much-needed ban, so this outdated, cruel practice is brought to an end on Wales’ soil.”

RSPCA Cymru also wants to see legislation brought forward utilising Section 12 of the Animal Welfare Act – a move which would save considerable parliamentary time, and ensure a ban is introduced as quickly as possible.  They believe full primary legislation would be unnecessary, and may mean the spectre of wild animals touring the country in a circus environment continues for some while.

Dr Clubb added: “The RSPCA believes – as this is such a significant animal welfare concern – that the information and evidence gathered in support of a ban is sufficient for action under Section 12 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

“Bringing forward a ban in this way would save parliamentary time, and ensure Wales would quickly join the growing list of countries who have put a stop to wild animals in circuses.

“Section 12 has already been used to help animals in Wales in lots of ways – including banning the use of shock collars on dogs and cats – and the time has come for this vehicle to be used to end the inappropriate conditions wild animals face in the circus environment.”

Scotland passed a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses in December 2017, while measures have been promised in England when UK parliamentary time allows, and a ban came into effect in the Republic of Ireland on January 1st 2018.

Wales would become the 41st country to take action on the issue of wild animals in circuses – with 27 having introduced a ban on all wild animals, 12 on some species of wild animals and one – Poland – on all wild-caught animals.

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