Send in the Clowns

Earlier this year DEFRA announced a wholesale review of circus licensing. As matters stand, circus licensing is still governed by the Performing Animals (Regulations) Act 1925 but this is now fortified by further provisions regarding animal welfare under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 which is therefore a reserved matter.

Although the DEFRA consultation is fairly wide-ranging the principal driver is the effective ban of performing animals. This will mean the death of a number of circuses which have existed for generations. Or will it?

Interestingly the consultation is exclusive of Scotland as the proposals would not apply up here. If the English ban prevails, this might mean that English circuses may simply relocate up north where the ban was irrelevant. This might result in a literal stampede as circus owners struggle to persist with their chosen livelihood.

So what for the Scottish circus? MSP Christine Graham has brought this to the attention of Holyrood with a view to banning circuses with animal performances but there is nothing further on that yet.

The proposed ban would not outlaw circuses altogether, just the use of animals, as I understand it. So perhaps alternative acts may be sought.

Send in the clowns.


About Stephen McGowan

Leading Scottish licensing solicitor at TLT LLP.
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