Great news for wild animals suffering for tourism

Born Free applauds massive step forward as Bill banning promotion of abusive activities involving animals abroad passes final stages.

Two dolphins in a pool taking part in a show and playing with a ball

After months of hard work with our colleagues from like-minded organisations, Born Free is gratified to see the Animals (Low Welfare Activities Abroad) Bill passed its third reading in the House of Lords on 18th September and has now received Royal Assent. The new law will have a big impact for wild animals suffering for tourist entertainment.

The new law will pave the way for Ministers to prohibit the sale and advertising of cruel and abusive activities overseas, such as elephant riding and dolphin shows, that would be illegal in the UK. It was tabled by Angela Richardson, the MP for Guildford, as Private members Bill, and fulfils a longstanding government commitment, most recently articulated in DEFRA’s Action Plan for Animal Welfare published in May 2021, in which the then Secretary of State for Environment George Eustice stated: ‘In line with setting a global example on animal welfare, we also want to make sure that businesses do not benefit from selling attractions, activities or experiences to tourists involving the unacceptable treatment of animals. For example, animals such as Asian elephants may be subjected to cruel and brutal training practices to ensure their obedience. We will legislate to ban the advertising and offering for sale here of specific, unacceptable practices abroad. Our intention is that this will steer tourists towards visiting attractions that involve animals being cared for and treated properly.’

Responding to the news, Born Free’s Head of Policy Dr Mark Jones said: “This Act fulfils a government commitment, one which the government itself failed to fulfil. Angela Richardson therefore deserves great credit for tabling her Bill. Its successful passage through Parliament reflects the work we have done to support it alongside colleagues in a number of like-minded organisations. It is now imperative that Ministers act quickly to ensure key activities, such as elephant rides and cruel circus-type shows involving primates, bears, dolphins and others, become offences under the new law.”

The Act, which will initially apply to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, is due to be implemented in December. The Secretary of State at DEFRA is now responsible for developing ‘activity regulations’ which will identify the activities the promotion and sale of which will become an offence. Persons or corporate bodies that fall foul could be subject to a fine on summary conviction.

Mark Jones continued: “The passing of this Act represents a shining light in what was a promising government animal welfare agenda, much of which has subsequently fallen by the wayside. The British public consistently support measures to improve animal welfare and protect wildlife. It’s high time our politicians acknowledge this fact and act accordingly.”

Image © J McArthur BFF

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