Wild animals including reindeer, zebras and camels will be banned from use in travelling circuses from next year, in a move praised by campaigners.
Circus operators in England will no longer be allowed to force the animals to perform in shows in shows under the new Wild Animals in Circuses Bill, announced by Environment Secretary Michael Gove.
“Travelling circuses are no place for wild animals in the 21st century and I am pleased that this legislation will put an end to this practice for good,” he said.
“Today’s announcement follows other measures we have taken to strengthen our position as a world leader on animal protection.”
Campaigners have welcomed the ban on the “outdated” practice, after years of lobbying for the bill.
David Bowles, of the RSPCA, said: “We’ve campaigned against having wild animals in circuses for many years. They have complex needs that cannot be properly met in a circus environment.
“It’s high time keeping wild animals in circuses is consigned to the history books and we look forward to the day that it is banned for good in England.”
Dr Chris Draper, of wildlife charity the Born Free foundation, said: “The use of wild animals in travelling circuses is outdated and unpopular, and this legislation will bring England into line with a long and increasing list of countries which have banned this practice.”
It comes after the government banned the sale of ivory to protect elephants, 20,000 of which were being slaughtered each year to meet global demand for the material used in decorative items.
Finn’s Law, which gives protection to service dogs and horses, was also passed by the House of Lords earlier this month.
They have complex needs that cannot be properly met in a circus environment
Last February, the government committed to introducing the ban before interim licensing regulations were to expire in January 2020.
Previously, those running a travelling circus featuring wild animals were required to have a license, or risk facing prison or a £5,000 fine.
Animal welfare minister David Rutley said: “The general public can still enjoy a trip to the circus, but it is good to know that wild animals will no longer be a part of that experience.”