Travelling circuses will be banned from using wild animals in their shows, the government has announced.

Ministers unveiled plans on Thursday to outlaw the “outdated” practice through new legislation at the “earliest opportunity”.

A tough licensing regime will be brought in to improve conditions for performing animals while changes in the law are developed.

Animal welfare minister Lord Taylor said: “There is no place in today’s society for wild animals being used for our entertainment in travelling circuses. Wild animals deserve our respect.

“We have said many times we wanted to ban this outdated practice, but before we could do that there were serious legal issues we had to consider.

“We are developing proposals to introduce a bill as soon as parliamentary time allows.

“In the meantime we are introducing a circus licensing scheme to ensure decent conditions for wild animals in travelling circuses.”

It comes after a push for action following allegations of mistreatment of a circus elephant, Anne, last year.

MPs backed a blanket ban last June and, though it was non-binding, it was highly embarrassing for the government. Downing Street later signalled it would bow to pressure over the demands. But it warned that the government could be left open to lawsuits from circus owners and workers.

That is a hurdle that is still likely to make progress of the ban slow.

Tory MP Mark Pritchard, who led last year’s backbench call for a ban, claimed at the time he had been threatened by the prime minister’s office unless he backed down.

He said: “Any licensing scheme should also guarantee that no new wild animals are imported into UK circuses.

“Quite frankly, I don’t believe the government when they say they will move towards a ban.

“I don’t trust No 10 on the issue. I will believe it when I see it, but I am not holding my breath. Time will tell if I am right.”

via Circuses to be banned from using wild animals, government announces | World news | The Guardian.