It is a pleasure to follow Sheryll Murray, who has spoken up for animals such as Donkey that cannot speak up for themselves. It is also a pleasure to speak in this important debate, and I congratulate the hon. Members for The Wrekin (Mark Pritchard) and for Colchester (Bob Russell) and my hon. Friend Jim Fitzpatrick on bringing it before the House. There is overwhelming public support for the introduction of a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses, and it is crucial that we have a vote on this motion today. I am pleased to hear from the hon. Member for The Wrekin that there is to be a free vote across the whole House. That is what the country is asking for on this issue, and it is what the country should have.
There are only three circuses left in the UK that use wild animals in performances. It has been recognised that to use them for human entertainment is unethical and unjustifiable, and that it should therefore be opposed. The previous Government consulted the country on a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses in 2009, and the consultation closed in March 2010. It received more than 10,000 responses, 94.5% of which supported a ban. That illustrates the extent of public opinion, which has been reflected in our postbags over the past couple of weeks.