Under a bill that’s expected to become law, traveling circuses in the U.K. will be banned from using exotic animals. They will have until December 2015 to bring an end to those acts and to make provision for the humane retirement of the animals.
The ban will cover any creature not normally domesticated in Great Britain. (So dogs, cats and horses, for example, will still be permitted.)
The ban was precipitated by the case of Annie the elephant, whose abuse at the infamous Bobby Roberts Circus was documented by Animal Defenders International (ADI). Roberts and his wife were convicted of cruelty but allowed to go free by a judge who seemed to think it was Roberts himself who’d been abused.
Several British newspapers kept up pressure, however, and in 2011 members of parliament directed the government to move forward on a ban on exotic animals in traveling circuses. Yesterday’s move begins the process of turning that decision into law.
Meanwhile, Annie, now 60 years old, is living at the Longleat safari park. By all accounts she’s happy and healthy there.
One newspaper, the Daily Mail, raised more than half a million dollars from readers to help pay for Annie’s care.
In a statement yesterday, Jan Creamer, the executive director of ADI, said:
“There is no place in a civilized society for animals to be forced to endure a lifetime of cruelty and confinement for entertainment. We have found the public is overwhelmingly in support of a ban, as are politicians.
“Last year’s conviction of circus owner Bobby Roberts for the cruelty suffered by Anne the elephant horrified the world. The public has been crying out for a ban since ADI launched the Stop Circus Suffering campaign in 1992 with our first investigation of the suffering of circus animals.
“Since then, the number of wild animal circuses has dropped from 20 to just two. The end to the use of these animals for entertainment is long overdue and the UK can join the 20 other countries with prohibitions on wild animal circuses.”