With New Ban, No More Lions and Tigers and Bears at Circuses

Any animal not normally domesticated in the UK will no longer appear on stage

Photo: Marion Doss

Lions, tigers, bears, elephants and other wild animals will not longer star in circus shows in the UK, the Guardian reports. Instead, only domesticated animals such as ponies horses will leap through hoops and perform other circus tricks. The government made the announcement after a lengthy campaign, the Guardian writes, and the ban will go into effect on December 1, 2015. 

The new rules won’t be enforced for another year and a half in order to give travelling circuses time to find homes for their animals and come up with new acts. The new ruling has been a long time coming, however.  

Politicians and animal welfare groups have repeatedly called for the measure and in June 2011 overwhelmingly supported a blanket ban, but ministers were initially reluctant to meet their demands due to fears over possible legal action from circus operators.

The new rule defines with animal as “any creature not normally domesticated in Great Britain.” The BBC expands upon this definition:

There are currently 20 licensed wild animals working in circuses.

These include camels, zebras and snakes, but not elephants, monkeys, gorillas, chimpanzees or big cats.

The UK’s governmental animal protection policy page includes a full copy of the new bill  as presented to parliament. Here, they justify the decision to give wild animals in circuses the ax:

The British circus industry has a rich heritage dating back over two centuries, and I hope it will
continue to thrive long into the future. For many years wild animals were an integral part of the
circus experience: the only chance that most people would have to glimpse exotic beasts from
distant lands.

Today, by contrast, we are fortunate to enjoy world-class zoos, a wide-reaching
education system, and internationally renowned wildlife documentaries, which together give
children and adults an appreciation and knowledge of wild animals and the environments they
come from.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Pablo Fanque’s Fair 
The Circus Is Coming!