Where Is the Ban on Wild Animals in Circuses?

19/05/2016 17:18 | Updated 20 May 2016

Like many people in this day and age, I believe there should be no place for using wild animals in circuses.

The humane treatment of animals is a benchmark for any civilised society and the Labour Party has a proud tradition of championing the protection and welfare of animals. Indeed, it was the last Labour government that introduced the groundbreaking Animal Welfare Act in 2006 which, for the first time, gave domestic animals the protections they deserve.

And it was Labour that led on the issue of wild animals in circuses, with Jim Fitzpatrick proposing to ban their use while a Defra minister.

However, since the Tories took office, successive governments have dithered and delayed over whether or not to act. An ineffective and token effort to pursue a voluntary approach was followed by a personal promise from David Cameron that his government would do something and that he was personally sympathetic, even going so far as publishing a draft bill that would have banned wild animals in circuses by December 2015.

But we are still waiting. The Government failed to make parliamentary time for the latest in a series of Private Members' Bills addressing the issue, and again neglected to include legislation in yesterday's Queen's Speech. And this is despite a ban on wild animals in circuses being a Tory manifesto commitment.

The three main parties are supposed to be in agreement that they want to see the practice brought to a swift end. Labour certainly believes it is time for the UK to join the raft of other countries that have already passed similar legislation - including Bolivia, Colombia and Panama - and to recognise their duty to safeguard animal welfare.

The use of wild animals for our own entertainment has no place in a modern society. The sooner their use in circuses is prohibited the better. An outright ban is long overdue and the Government needs to deliver on its promises by bringing one forward without further delay.

Alex Cunningham is the Labour MP for Stockton North and shadow minister for natural environment