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Ban on circus animals to be considered amid concerns over big cats

Concerns have been raised over five circus big cats being kept at a Fraserburgh farm.

Lions and tigers at Circus High School in Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire. SOURCE: Born Free PERMISSION: Yes USAGE LIMITS: None DATE: November 5 2014
Born Free

The Scottish Government is set to consider banning circuses from using wild animals, environment secretary Richard Lochhead has said.

Mr Lochhead said the government was considering how quickly changes could be brought in after MSP Kevin Stewart raised concerns about five big cats being kept at a Fraserburgh farm.

Three tigers and two lions are spending the winter at the Circus High School animal training centre in St Combs.

Animal welfare charity Born Free said it is “extremely concerned” about the standard of accommodation the animals are being kept in.

On Tuesday, Mr Stewart pressed Mr Lochhead at Holyrood over whether ministers would now ban circuses from using wild animals in Scotland, bringing it in line with the rest of the UK.

The Scottish Government carried out a consultation on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses earlier this year, Mr Lochhead said.

He told MSPs: "The analysis of over 2000 responses is currently being completed and, of course, we will carefully consider all the views expressed.

"The Scottish Government does, however, recognise the concerns around this very important issue and will look carefully at what the options might be for implementing such a ban.

Mr Lochhead said he had urged his officials to examine how they could “bring forward legislative action" after learning about the Fraserburgh big cats. The use of wild animals in travelling circuses was banned in England in January last year.

He added: “I do want Scotland to be progressive, the fact that we are considering moving legislation forward on the basis of ethical grounds means we have to clarify an exact legal route to do so.”

In 2007, an investigation carried out by the University of Aberdeen's Mike Radford found that there was “little evidence” to show that the welfare of circus animals is any worse than animals kept elsewhere in captivity.

The Radford report, compiled on behalf of DEFRA's Circus Working Group, also said there was “not enough scientific evidence” to ban the use of circus animals under animal protection legislation.

However, it highlighted that “expectations have been raised” the Scottish Government would take action and said the current legislative situation was “against the interests of the animals involved”.

There are no travelling circuses based in Scotland which use wild animals, but the Great British Circus, Bobby Robert's Super Circus, Peter Jolly's Circus and Circus Mondao have all used animals in the past.

It is believed fewer than 50 animals have been used by circuses in Scotland in recent years.

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