Circuses will be banned from using wild animals in their shows under new government proposals that have been published after a long campaign.
Politicians and animal welfare groups have repeatedly called for the measure and in June 2011 MPs overwhelmingly supported a blanket ban, but ministers were initially reluctant to meet their demands due to fears over possible legal action from circus operators.
The government's plan will make it an offence for any operator to use a wild animal in performance or exhibition in a travelling circus in England from 1 December 2015.
The agriculture minister David Heath told MPs: "This 'grace period' is to allow operators of travelling circuses a reasonable period of time to adapt their businesses and organise suitable care arrangements for their wild animals."
Under the terms of the draft wild animals in circuses bill the ban will cover any creature not normally domesticated in Great Britain.
The government has already introduced strict regulations to improve conditions for performing animals until the law is changed.
Tory Mark Pritchard, whose backbench motion in 2011 calling for a ban was passed without a vote in the Commons, welcomed the announcement.
He said: "I am delighted the government have finally decided to introduce a ban.
"This is a victory for animal welfare and common sense – and proves that politicians who have belief, stick to their principles, and persevere despite hostile opposition, can still shape events."
All of the animals forced to live in circuses – tigers, lions, bears, elephants, etc. live out their whole lives deprived of freedom and in the majority of cases only come out of their cages or boxes or are released from their chains to be forced to perform ridiculous tricks. These animals are individuals who would travel hundreds of miles if they could in search of food or shelter, and for whom not being able to enjoy their lives causes unimaginable suffering.
Forcing any animal to perform for human entertainment is unethical and cannot be justified. There is no need to keep animals in captivity for our own enjoyment or entertainment, and with your help it’s possible to ban animal circuses in every country. Firstly we should show our rejection of the use of animals as entertainment by not going to animal circuses, zoos, or other places where animals are used for this purposes.
You can learn alot about the natural behaviour of animals by visiting websites, watching documentaries, reading books, and respectfully observing animals in their natural habitat. But perhaps the best lesson is one of respect, so we can recognise that even though we are different in some ways, we are equal.
You can also help animals by encouraging others not to visit these places, talking with your friends and family, handing out our leaflets on speciesism,and volunteering your time with Animal Equality.
For more information visit: www.animalequality.net/entertainment/circuses