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Written Statement - Mobile Animal Exhibits, including Circuses    

Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs

I wish to update Assembly Members on the Welsh Government’s next steps in relation to ‘Mobile Animal Exhibits’, including circuses.

In my Statement of 15th July 2016, I confirmed I had asked officials to provide detailed options on the next steps regarding the use of wild animals in circuses, as well as further considerations on the use of all animals in ‘Mobile Animal Exhibits’. Having received a thorough briefing on this what is absolutely clear to me is typically, ‘Mobile Animal Exhibits’ are not subject to any stringent licensing regime or routine inspection and it is clear the welfare of animals used by these entities is a cause for concern which I want to address. 

Given the complexity of the issue I have therefore instructed that the following strands of work begin immediately which are interdependent but also flexible enough to be able to shape future control and enforcement.

My officials will be working on developing a new scheme such as licensing or registration, for ‘Mobile Animal Exhibits’ including circuses, which display domestic and exotic animals in Wales. We will work with key stakeholders and undertake a public consultation on this early next year

I also recently met with the UK Government’s Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity, Lord Gardiner of Kimble, to discuss ‘Mobile Animal Exhibits’, wild animals in circuses and the revocation of the outdated Performing Animals (Regulation) Act 1925 in Wales. ‘Mobile Animal Exhibits’ from across the UK regularly travel across borders. Therefore agreement was obtained that Wales and England would, as far as possible, have a joined-up strategic approach in introducing any new scheme to ensure cross border issues are kept to a minimum.  

It should be carefully noted that whilst circuses with animals will be included in the proposed licensing or registration scheme, I am aware of the ethical concerns held by members of the public regarding the use of wild animals in circuses and a specific question on this issue will be included in the consultation document.    

I have not dismissed the possibility of a future ban on the use of wild animals in circuses in Wales and have kept the window open on the possibility of still being included in any UK Government Bill brought forward on this issue. However, we cannot wait forever for that possibility to arise.  

Animal welfare is a priority for the Welsh Government and concerns raised by stakeholders and the general public are taken very seriously, irrespective of whether those animals are kept as pets or used for commercial or other purposes. This is in line with the Welsh Government’s ‘Responsible Ownership’ ethos, as set out in the Wales Animal Health and Welfare Framework Plan.  Working together to produce sustainable outcomes is also a requirement of the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.