Sent Back to Think Again on Wild Animals in Circuses


By The Strobridge Litho. Co., Cincinnati & New York. – Library of Congress[1], Public Domain,

The Scottish Parliament Committee looking at the  Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Bill has commented that it needs strengthened as it has too many areas of ambiguity.

The Orkney News reported on the Bill in an article in May: Making it an Offence to use Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses..

Graeme Dey, Convener of the  Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee (ECCLRC) said:

“during scrutiny of the proposed Bill, it became clear there was a level of ambiguity arising from the lack of definition of what constitutes a circus which could potentially create loopholes in the legislation and the possibility of it not fulfilling its intended purpose.”

“Similarly, many of our witnesses – which ranged from circus owners and performers to animal rights charities and local authorities – raised concerns over the definition of a wild animal.”

“To avoid misinterpretation of the Bill, we’ve asked the Scottish Government to reflect upon these points and ensure the relevant definitions are clear so as to ensure the legislation achieves what it sets out to.”

If brought into law, it would be an offence for a circus operator to use wild animals as part of a travelling circus. The Bill also includes the power to enter premises and vehicles in order to search for and examine animals.

Key areas the committee highlighted which needed to be addressed are:

  • The Bill should include a definition of “circus”.
  • The Committee believes that the definitions within the Bill are open to interpretation and strongly recommends these are tightened.
  • The Bill is at risk of not fully addressing the issues it has been proposed to cover and capturing animal performances it had not intended to.

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  1. Looks like it’s a bit of a ‘Curate’s egg’.
    At first, it seems obvious what a ‘wild animal’ is, and that they shouldn’t be in a circus – they should be…in the wild. Then I look at the Barnum & Bailey poster, and I don’t want to see geese, or a donkey treated like that, either.
    And I remember that ‘Colonel’ Tom Parker (Elvis’ manager) started off with ‘dancing’ chickens. They were ‘dancing’ because they were placed on a hot-plate.
    A circus can be entertaining, without pushing animals into un-natural behaviour. If the humans want to push themselves into un-natural behaviour, that’s their business.

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