Naomi Long MP said: “I think everybody was disappointed last year when they saw the images of an elephant in a circus being mistreated, but even if these wild animals are not being wilfully neglected or mistreated, a circus is no place for them. I do not believe that the environment required for wild animals to flourish can be provided in a travelling circus and I do not believe that it is ethical to use wild animals for entertainment.
“I have previously lobbied hard on this issue and so I welcome this decision by Government; however, the devil will be in the detail. I asked the Minister today when he anticipated the legislation being brought to the House and, whilst he could give no firm date, he did say that he would be disappointed if the ban were not implemented before the end of this Parliament. I also asked whether, in the interim, the licensing arrangements could be used to stop the import of any more wild animals for circuses; however, he indicated that this would create legal difficulties. It is, therefore, crucial that the ban takes effect as soon as possible.
“Any ban by DEFRA will only apply in England, but in response to previous correspondence with the NI Minister for Agriculture, she indicated willingness to implement a ban; however, she said that she would need to review the legal position and any developments in other parts of the UK and Ireland. Following today’s statement, I have written again to press the Minister to follow suit and pass legislation through the Assembly.
“We have already seen several local councils refuse to allow circuses that have wild animals to set up on their land, but only a complete ban will end the practice of keeping wild animals in circuses in line with the wishes of the public.”