More clarity needed on circus animals ban, Holyrood Committee concludes

Written by Jenni Davidson on 22 September 2017 in News

The Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee has said the bill needs tightened “to avoid misinterpretation”

Elephants performing in a circus - Image credit: PA Images

A bill banning circuses from using wild animals in their shows needs to be strengthened, according to a Holyrood committee.

The Scottish Parliament’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee has published a report outlining key recommendations to improve the Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Bill.

The bill, which would ban travelling circuses from having animals either performing or on display, also includes powers to search premises and vehicles.


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But committee members are concerned that the definition of circus and wild animal are not clear enough as the bill currently stands.

They have expressed concerns that the bill may not cover all the performances it is intended to and may bring in others that it wasn’t intended to.

The committee recommends tightening the definitions in the bill, and in particular to lay out what is meant by circus.

Committee convener Graeme Dey MSP said: “Our committee is fully supportive of Scotland’s ambition to be the first part of the UK to ban wild animals in travelling circuses.

“However, during scrutiny of the proposed bill, it became clear there was a level of ambiguity arising from the lack of definition of what constitutes a circus which could potentially create loopholes in the legislation and the possibility of it not fulfilling its intended purpose. 

“Similarly, many of our witnesses – which ranged from circus owners and performers to animal rights charities and local authorities – raised concerns over the definition of a wild animal.

“To avoid misinterpretation of the bill, we’ve asked the Scottish Government to reflect upon these points and ensure the relevant definitions are clear so as to ensure the legislation achieves what it sets out to.”

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