A phase-in ban on wild animals in circuses, with a licensing scheme to be implemented in the meantime was announced on 1st March. People all over the country were victorious and thought their hard work and campaigning had finally come to fruition. It is now two months on and now the documents from the government have been studies in detail, people are less confident about the governments commitment to a ban.
This is because a deadline for the ban has still not been set and the details about the full ban are vague.
Worryingly, the licensing scheme that is now in force will not safeguard the welfare of animals as it relies on circuses themselves to adhere to the welfare guidelines.
The most telling thing has been a letter from a Defra civil servant stating "I am not aware we have ever suggested that the licensing scheme would be a 'temporary' measure". Other documents were enclosed with the proposal that were "littered with contradictions and inconsistencies" which leads the RSPCA and CAPS to question whether the government intend to keep their promise of a ban.
CAPS managed to secure a meeting with the relevant Minister towards the end of April, during the meeting the Minister confirmed that licensing will be temporary and that a ban would be in place before the end of this government's term (2015). This is longer than hoped for, but better than the licensing system continuing for ten years or becoming permanent.
The Minister also confirmed that the ban will apply to all wild animals in circuses, with no clause allowing animals that are already in circuses to remain so. From the date the ban begins it will be illegal for wild animals to be used in the travelling circus environment.
There are a few negative aspects to the meeting, the government are proposing a ban via primary legislation which will take a long time to implement. Placing the ban under the Animal Welfare Act would speed up the process and reduce the suffering of animals. Unfortunately the government don't agree, or choose not to.
The government are determined that licensing will go ahead despite it not protecting the animals and being a complicated and expensive stop gap which takes focus away from the ban. Despite there being a lack of support of the licensing system, it will still continue.
After the meeting CAPS believe that the intention to ban the use of wild animals in circuses is genuine. There is still something that you can do to help, please click here and join the RSPCA in urging Defra to commit to a deadline.