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10 Reasons Why We Must Consign Wild Animal Circuses to History

06/03/2015 14:28 GMT | Updated 06/05/2015 10:59 BST

Many believe wild animal circuses are already banned, as the overwhelming majority of the public turned their backs on such shows years ago.

But, as is often the case, we are still waiting for the government to catch up and take action. A commitment was made back in 2012, but legislation to ban wild animals in circuses is yet to pass.

An MP introduced a private member's bill in a valiant attempt to bring the ban forward but, unbelievably, one MP has stopped it from progressing on every single occasion and now the proposed implementation date of December 2015 is in jeopardy.

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Quite rightly, the issue refuses to go away and the prime minister is being urged to pass the ban he promised before the General Election. I am one of the many hoping he keeps his promise - here's why:

1. Animal kept in cramped and confined conditions. Wild animals have complex social and behavioural needs and circuses simply cannot provide for them. Animals endure cramped, temporary enclosures as standard, as well as frequent travel, during which they can spend long periods of time in their trailers. Animals may also be chained or tethered, further restricting their movement.

2. Stressed animals, unable to cope. If you see animals pacing back and forth in their cages and pens at the circus, it means the animals are unable to cope with what is a completely unnatural environment for them. I have watched footage of lions and tigers owned by Thomas Chipperfield, who toured with the circus around Britain last year, displaying this behaviour which shows their welfare is being compromised.

3. Science on suffering. Studies show that circuses are unable to give their animals the appropriate housing, space and enrichment they need. The evidence tells us that the wild species commonly used in circuses are not suited to circus life, and their confinement is a key welfare concern. Evidence collated over the years by organisations such as Animal Defenders International give grim testament to the shocking animal suffering that takes place behind the scenes.

4. Failure to comply with licence requirements. Regulations for keeping wild animals in circuses were brought in as a temporary measure until a ban was in place. Far from being an open and transparent system, inspection reports have only been released to the public under the Freedom of Information Act and reveal a host of animal welfare issues. The most recent reports document how animals were kept in unsecure enclosures and circuses breached licence conditions by leaving animals unsupervised with the public.

5. Inspections do not protect the animals. Licensed circuses are inspected by government officials three times a year but these provide an often unrealistic snapshot of life for the animals in the circus. Animal Defenders International has previously revealed how circuses have hidden sick animals from inspectors and removed evidence of the chaining of elephants overnight.

6. Circuses undermine conservation efforts. The government has said itself in its draft legislation that circuses add "nothing to the understanding and conservation of wild animals and the natural environment", despite claims to the contrary. Conservation efforts are undermined by the demeaning performances animals are forced to perform - how could making a fox ride on a donkey round the circus ring possibly have a positive impact on conversation efforts? The answer - it doesn't.

7. An unpopular pastime. Attitudes have changed over the years as we have learned of the complex lives of animals and reconsidered how they should be treated. In contrast to their former heyday, there are now just two circuses with wild animal acts continuing to tour Britain.

8. The public want a ban. In the UK and indeed around the world, we are turning our backs on this outdated form of entertainment - public support for a ban on wild animal acts has remained consistently high for over 15 years. A Government consultation on the issue which was open for everyone to respond, found that 95% of people were in favour of a ban, indicating the tremendous strength of feeling on the issue.

9. We are falling behind the rest of the world. Despite seeing ourselves as a leader in animal welfare, we are slipping behind the world on this issue - did you know that over 30 countries have already brought in legislation to prohibit wild or all animals in circuses?

10. Traditions that cause suffering must be consigned to the past. Britain has contributed many cultural and social traditions to the world over the centuries. Some are now considered unacceptable by society and we have thankfully moved away from them. This is the case with wild animals in circuses and the legislation now needs to catch up so that wild animals are no longer subjected to a life of suffering.

To find out how you can help end the use of wild animals in circuses visit www.stopcircussuffering.com