In accordance with the Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012, a travelling circus is defined as ‘a circus in which travels from place to place for the purpose of giving performances, displays or exhibitions’ and ‘a circus as part of which wild animals are kept or introduced (whether for the purpose of performance, display or otherwise).
The circus is said to have originated in the 1700s, with a one-time Sergeant Major in the 15th Light Dragoons, Philip Astley performing on horseback, demonstrating equestrian expertise in London based shows, (Broonman & Legge, 1999; Stoddart, 2000). It was Astleys’ equestrian performances that influenced many others to establish similar shows over Europe in the nineteenth century, with new permanent buildings being built for the performances later developing in the early twentieth century to circuses tents to allow the shows to be taken to audiences that would otherwise not have seen the show. Other developments allowed European based circuses to travel from the Far East to South America, Africa and Australasia, (European Circus Association , 2014).
Although there were animal welfare protests against performing animal shows, the First World War was a staple moment of protest against the shows, with the Performing Animals Defence League forming in 1914 encouraging public concern on animal cruelty, (Wilson, 2009).
Currently there are three main legislations affecting and protecting the welfare of wild animals in travelling circuses, The Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012, the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and the performing Animals (regulation) Act 1925, (DEFRA,2013; Rees,2013). The legislations in place recognise that both wild and domesticated animals are used in travelling and static circuses, (British Veterinary Association, 2014; Rees, 2013).
It was reported by the British Veterinary Associations that in 2013 that an estimated 20 known wild animals were currently performing in two licenced circuses in England, (Brash, 2013). This is a decrease of 22 since 2007. When it was estimated there were 42 known wild animals in circuses in Britain which in turn was a decrease of 50 since 1997, when there were 92. In Britain between 1975 and 2005 25,500 animals have officially been exported globally for the purpose of circuses and travelling exhibitions, (Iossa, et al., 2009).
On the 16th April 2013 a draft bill was published by DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), proposing a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in the United Kingdom which is being passed into law and will be enforced by the end of 2015, (British Veterinary Association, 2014). In accordance with the legislations currently in place, those who are operating travelling circuses with the use of wild animals in England, are required to apply for a licence under the Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (England) Regulations 2012 and are...