Born Free has campaigned for decades for a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses in the UK.

Although the number of circuses with wild animals and the number of wild animals used by circuses has declined in recent years, people in the UK don’t realise that the use of wild animals in circuses is still legal throughout much of the UK. This is despite overwhelming public and parliamentary support for a ban.

In the UK, animal welfare is a devolved issue. This means that laws relating to animal welfare are developed and made by the relevant national parliaments of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, rather than across the entire UK. This, in turn, means that legislation governing the use of wild animals in circuses differs between UK member countries. 

In May 2018, Scotland became the first country in the UK to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses. In England, a licensing regime is in place but is due to be repealed and replaced by a ban prior to 2020. In early 2018, the Welsh Assembly committed to introducing a ban with reported plans for it to be in place during 2019. Northern Ireland has no specific legislation in relation to wild animals in circuses.



Sign up to get the latest Born Free news about our work and how you can help, delivered straight to your inbox.