Wild animals will no longer form part of circus acts in England

Date published: 22 January 2020

As of 20 January 2020, circuses performing in England will no longer be allowed to use wild animals as part of their act.

Just two circuses in the UK still hold wild animal licences, including Circus Mondao, which visits the Rochdale borough every summer.

However, the Wild Animals in Circuses Act 2019 means circus operator will no longer be able to use wild animals – defined as any animals which are not domesticated – in a travelling circus in England.

In our last report from 2016, Circus Mondao’s act featured llama, reindeer, Bactrian camels and horses – of which the camels are the only ‘wild’ animals listed under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976.

Most countries worldwide class the camel as a domesticated animal, with the UK being in a minority to class the animal as wild.

In July 2016, Rochdale Online was shown the entire grounds of the circus, including backstage where the animals live, and the purpose-built transporters and secure stables and enclosures, both of which met the required legal regulations outlined by Defra.

Circus Mondao’s animal acts consist of walking around the ring, sitting, turning in a pirouette and stepping up onto a small platform – all taught with treats and positive reinforcement.

Performances by the animals last a few minutes and make up a small number of the show’s acts. The remaining acts are made up of human performances, such as traditional entertainment like trapeze artists, clowns and plate spinners.

Circus Mondao has been travelling for around 15 years and is frequently subject to announced and unannounced inspections. 

Rochdale Online did contact Circus Mondao to find out how the ban would affect their show, but no response was received.

The legislation comes on the back of a public consultation on the use of wild animals in circuses by Defra, which found 94.5% of respondents supported such a ban. The consultation ran between 2009 and 2010.

In May 2019, then Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who brought the Bill forward to become legislation, said: “Travelling circuses are no place for wild animals in the 21st century.”

A number of animal rights and welfare charities have also been campaigning for such a ban for many years, calling the practice “outdated and unpopular.”

Speaking last year, David Bowles, Head of Public Affairs at the RSPCA, said: “We really welcome the Government introducing a Bill to ban the outdated practice of using wild animals in circuses.

“It’s high time keeping wild animals in circuses is consigned to the history books and we look forward to the day that it is banned for good in England.”

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