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The Government have introduced a legislation to ban all wild animals in circuses in the UK for once and for all

The Government is introducing legislation on a ban on wild animals in circuses, with an aim for it to become law.

Introducing the debate, Thomas Docherty said the House of Commons had previously debated the issue of wild animals in circuses 16 months ago, where it resolved, without division, that wild animals in circuses should be prohibited.

He welcomed the licensing arrangement the government was putting in place as "a step in the right direction", but Docherty wanted to see the department uphold the promises it made in that debate and ban outright the use of wild animals in travelling circuses.

"A YouGov poll showed that nine out of 10 of the people surveyed supported an outright ban" he told MPs, and the back-bench debate and the early-day motion showed that more than half of all back-benchers supported such a ban.

Labour's shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh commented there was "a kind of 'groundhog day' feeling" to the proceedings.

"After two years' delay, we still do not have a ban on wild animals in circuses" she said, despite ministers saying in April 2011 a ban was "imminent".

A ban had been consulted on in 2009, and of more than 10,000 responses 94.5 per cent of them backed a ban.

The ban was also strongly supported by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the British Veterinary Association, the Born Free Foundation and Animal Defenders International, "all of which agreed that a licensing regime would be unworkable" she said.

"The government have spent 18 months and £261,000, as well as thousands of staff hours and hours in meetings with charities, preparing for a licensing regime that will not work" she argued.

"The reasons propagated by the government for not introducing an outright ban-a lack of parliamentary time, legal difficulties, the European Union, a lack of resources or a desire to avoid red tape-have been found, one after the other, to be utterly without substance."

Benyon responded "the protection of the welfare of performing wild animals in circuses is a matter that the government take very seriously and we have pledged to take tough, prompt action to address it".

The new licensing regulations the Government have introduced came into force on January 20, making it now an offence to operate a travelling circus with wild animals in England without a valid licence.

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