I recently enjoyed a family trip to the circus. I must admit that it is many many years since I last went to the circus and I had forgotten the thrill seeing the performance up close and the atmosphere in the ‘Big Top’. The looks on the children’s faces as they watched the jugglers and acrobats swinging high above the circus ring made for a great day out. The motorcyclists on “The Ball Off Death” were quite unbelievable with their split second timing. The performance lacked nothing and yet there was one big difference between the show I saw and the “traditional” circus. There were no animals in the modern circus.

Travelling circuses that use wild animals have recently been the focus of debate between DEFRA and the British Veterinary Association. The BVA, and other organisations have campaigned that all wild animals should be banned from travelling circuses because the welfare needs of non-domesticated, wild animals cannot be met within the environment of a travelling circus; especially in terms of accommodation and the ability to express normal behaviour. There are still a small number of lions and tigers who are moved from site to site in circuses and despite the best intentions of the circus owners and handlers, the needs of these animals cannot be met adequately by the environmental conditions of a travelling circus.

Despite the persistent efforts of the BVA and other organisations and a petition of over 15,000 signatures, a ban in Austria is being challenged under European Law. Because of this unresolved matter, DEFRA have instead decided to introduce a licensing regime rather than impose an outright ban. It is difficult to see how a licence can overcome the inherent constraints of a travelling environment. The veterinary profession is urging DEFRA to revisit this issue as soon as the Austian situation is resolved.

A circus can, in my opinion, be just as entertaining without using animals which are totally unsuitable for that environment.

The petition is still open, if you wish to add your signature to the petition then click here.