Before the debate begins, I remind members that the Presiding Officer is required under standing orders to decide whether, in his view, any provision of the bill relates to a protected subject matter. Put briefly, that is whether it modifies the electoral system and franchise for Scottish parliamentary elections. If it does, the motion to pass the bill will require support from a supermajority of members: that is, a two-thirds majority, which is 86 members. In the case of this bill, the Presiding Officer has decided that, in his view, no provision of the Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Bill relates to a protected subject matter. Therefore, the bill does not require a supermajority to be passed at stage 3.
I am pleased to open this brief debate. At the outset, I thank all stakeholders who provided evidence and the committee members involved for their detailed and constructive consideration of the issues raised.
First, I deal with a very formal matter. I advise the Parliament, for the purposes of rule 9.11 of the standing orders, that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Bill, has consented to place her prerogative and interests, so far as they are affected by the bill, at the disposal of the Parliament for the purposes of the bill. It turned out that the bill required Crown consent.
The principle of a ban on wild animals in travelling circuses has had cross-party support for many years, although such circuses rarely visit Scotland now. The bill is therefore a preventative measure, based on ethical concerns about the use of animals in travelling circuses in general. It makes a clear statement to the world that the Scottish people respect the innate character of wild animals and will not tolerate their being subjected to a nomadic lifestyle in order to provide a spectacle for entertainment.
The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee raised some concerns about the bill’s wording in its stage 1 report. I responded by explaining the reasoning behind the wording and supporting some changes to the bill at stage 2, when the definitions of “wild animals” and “travelling circuses” in particular were debated vigorously and also, on occasion, humorously. Suitable amendments were, however, agreed, to avoid requiring lists of types of animal or characteristics of a circus in the bill.
I do not have much time, so I will deal with one substantive issue that has arisen more recently and subsequent to my appearances at committee. I believe that the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee regarded as unusual the new powers to specify whether a kind of animal is or is not wild and whether a kind of undertaking is or is not a travelling circus. The scenarios covered by the powers are themselves unusual. Guidance on the meaning of “wild animal” and of “travelling circus” and how those phrases should be applied in practice will, of course, be provided. However, the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee felt that guidance alone was insufficient, given the crucial role of the definitions in the bill. There is a huge variety of forms of entertainments using wild animals and of kinds of wild animals. Although the bill’s definitions will be sufficient in the majority of cases, the additional powers provide a mechanism to provide clarity in marginal cases where there is uncertainty, confusion or disagreement about whether or not particular kinds of animals or undertakings fall within the definitions.
The powers in the bill to specify a kind of animal as wild or not and an undertaking as a travelling circus or not are for the purposes of the bill. It is expected that a court would, in the case of that animal or undertaking, apply the act on the basis that the specified animal is a wild animal and the specified undertaking is a travelling circus. The regulations specifying what is a wild animal or a travelling circus are, however, expressly without prejudice to the general definitions in sections 2 and 3 of the bill. It is possible that, after regulations came into force, difficult issues could arise in a specific case because, for example, circumstances relating to that status of the animal have changed; for example, we often refer to that happening in our lifetime for llamas and alpacas. We therefore accept that a court would have to construe the act on the basis that sections 2 and 3 have determinative effect and regardless of what previously had been specified by regulations. In that sense, we accept that the regulations would have been indicative only.
Those powers, and specifically the way in which they were drafted to protect the generality of the definitions in the bill, were supported by Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee members at stage 2. The powers would be used only after looking at the evidence case by case and would be subject to the affirmative procedure after consideration by a parliamentary committee.
I believe that those powers, backed up by the clear guidance that we will issue, will ensure that we have a robust bill that is practical and easy to enforce. Again, I thank all those who have been involved in the bill process and those who tested the notion of having a list one way or the other in terms of wild or domesticated animals and who came to the same conclusion that we did, which is that it is extremely difficult to do that.
Here we are again, ringside, at stage 3 of the bill. In sincerity, I am delighted that, as we reach the end of what has been an eventful year in politics, we are here today to discuss legislation that will protect many wild animals and prohibit their use in Scotland within the realm of a travelling circus. With the bill likely to receive royal assent, we are catching up with the 18 other European countries that presently have restrictions on the use of wild animals in circuses; and it appears that United Kingdom Government legislation on the matter will be forthcoming.
I think that we have all agreed, on both animal welfare and ethical grounds, that it is correct that we now ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses. Although there is no evidence that such circuses have recently operated in Scotland, I think that everyone acknowledges that it remains imperative that we pass legislation to ban their using wild animals.
This is a bill in which the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee has played an important role, and although it cannot be said that it is a landmark bill, it is one that highlights the necessity of our committee system and the rigour and scrutiny that it provides.
When this bill was first discussed at stage 1, we collectively raised a variety of concerns about legal definitions, which were primarily concerns of the many and varied industries that potentially could have been affected by such legislation. At the time, we raised the fact that the bill risked criminalising some shows and events that have high standards of animal welfare, such as llama displays at the Royal Highland Show or organisations in my region of the Highlands and Islands, such as the Cairngorm Reindeer centre.
We raised the fact that there was a problem around the definitions of the terms “circus” and “travelling circus” and a lack of clarity about what constituted a “wild animal”.
All in all, those areas presented many legal issues with the bill as it stood. However, it is a testimony to the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee that it was able to listen to the evidence and work with the Scottish Government to implement needed changes. I would like to thank my colleagues John Scott, Mark Ruskell, David Stewart and the convener, Graeme Dey, who I hope will not mind being described as veterans of the system and who helped guide us novices through the intricacies of stage 2 and the amendments that were lodged either to improve the definitions or to provide assurances of one kind or another.
Although several amendments were not moved in their original form, it is clear that they prompted a response from the Scottish Government. I thank the cabinet secretary for the clarity that she has provided both today and on past occasions.
I should also comment on the input of the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee, which raised several points last week around similar issues. I again thank the cabinet secretary for clarifying, today and on the record, those issues in relation to definitions and accompanying guidance. Those matters are not just of arcane legal interest to lawyers such as herself and me; they are very important and I am glad that they have been taken on board.
It is abundantly clear, Presiding Officer, that the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee has played an important role in ensuring that the bill is fit for purpose and in addressing many of the concerns that operators had with the initial wording of the bill. As a result, the Scottish Conservatives are satisfied that the bill will deliver what it sets out to achieve and we will vote for it at decision time. It will ensure that shows and exhibitions that adhere to the high standards that are presently set out will be able to continue operating, while it ensures that the exploitation of wild animals in the arena of travelling circuses is now at an end.
As a result of the passage of this historic bill onto the statute book, we will in Scotland, finally and at last, truly be able to say:
“Nellie the elephant has packed her trunk and said goodbye to the circus.”
Labour will support the
Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Bill at decision time.
As a member of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee and a strong supporter of a number of animal welfare organisations such as OneKind, I moved a number of amendments that I felt would have improved the bill. I am grateful to the cabinet secretary and the committee for supporting my amendment on the offence ground.
At one level, one could argue that we are attempting to restrict something that does not happen, as we have no travelling circuses in Scotland. However, once passed, the bill will futureproof that position as it will be introduced on ethical rather than welfare grounds.
As the Scottish Parliament information centre paper makes clear, “circus” is Latin for a circle or a ring. One of the first major entertainment complexes in ancient Rome was the circus maximus, which held up to 300,000 spectators. Moving to more modern times, in 2014 the Scottish Government public consultation received more than 2,000 responses. A strong majority of 98 per cent were in favour of the ban, while 96 per cent were opposed to the performance or exhibition of wild animals.
As we have heard, the bill proposes to prohibit the performance, display or exhibition of wild animals in travelling circuses. The policy memorandum lists the Scottish Government’s view of the ethical challenges to society of using wild animals in travelling circuses, which are basically the impact on people’s respect for animals, the impact of travelling environments on the animals, and the ethical costs versus the benefits of such animal use.
On a technical point, the bill does not seek to prohibit circuses from travelling with wild animals but to create a criminal offence of travelling with or transporting such animals for the purposes of performance, display or exhibition. The offender is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding level 5, which is currently £5,000.
Enforcement will be by local authorities, but the philosophical underpinning is based on the five freedoms that were set out by the Farm Animal Welfare Council in 1979, which are basic freedoms relating to environment, diet, normal behaviour, housing with or apart from other animals, and protection from suffering, injury or disease.
As I said during the stage 1 debate, animal welfare organisations such as OneKind believe that there are strong animal welfare justifications for a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses. OneKind’s excellent petition to the Public Petitions Committee said:
“A travelling circus combines a number of specific characteristics (including extreme confinement, frequent transport and relocation, and training for performance) which create an environment where the needs of wild animals cannot be met. This combination is not found elsewhere, even in zoos where wild animals are kept captive. It increases the risk of stress and, in some cases, ill-treatment of the animals, and makes effective inspection and regulation very difficult.”
Investigations into United Kingdom circuses in recent years have documented shocking examples of severe habitual abuse of animals. For example, in 1999, individuals from Chipperfield’s circus were found guilty of cruelty to a chimpanzee and an elephant and, in 2009, the beating of elephants prior to performance was filmed in the Great British circus by Animal Defenders International. Earlier this year, a further exposé by Animal Defenders International showed an arthritic elephant named Anne being repeatedly beaten and abused by a member of staff in the Bobby Roberts circus.
As OneKind has argued, it is crucial that, in the future, there are no gaps in legislation covering performance, display or exhibition of animals in Scotland. The Scottish Government has announced its intention to develop new licensing requirements to protect the welfare of wild and domesticated animals in areas that are not covered by legislation.
I am pleased to support and endorse the bill.
The road to the point at which, in less than a couple of hours, we will, I hope, pass the bill has been long, to say the least. It was 13 years ago that the Scottish Executive consulted on the Animal Health and
Welfare (Scotland) Bill and, in the process, identified significant concerns regarding the use of wild animals in travelling circuses, and it will be three years next month since the Scottish Government launched its consultation on introducing a ban. However, we are here now and rightly so. As children, many of us will have attended travelling circuses and marvelled at the lions, tigers and elephants, but times change and so does society’s view on what is and is not ethically or morally justifiable.
The scrutiny process that the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee undertook highlighted a number of issues, and I want to reflect on some of those. Criticisms were made about the justification for the bill, including its assertion that it was harmful to young people to see animals being used in such a way. It was pointed out that the opinion of children and young people had not actually been sought. Helpfully, however, in parallel with the committee’s consideration, the Scottish Parliament’s education service used the bill as a live example of the passage of legislation and asked school groups visiting Holyrood for their views on whether wild animals in travelling circuses should be banned. Of over 1,000 votes cast by nine to 13-year-olds, 81 per cent were in favour of introducing a ban.
As we head into the year of young people, the Parliament might do well to consider how we ought to more formally build on that sort of engagement. Young people have opinions—very often considered, valid and well-formed opinions—and we as MSPs ought to take those on board as we consider legislative change. I am pleased that the bill is widely supported by the next generation.
As we have heard, definitions were perhaps the main concern for the committee. We considered definitions to make clear what is and is not a circus and what therefore, when travelling, would or would not be captured by the bill, and what is and is not a wild or indeed a domesticated animal. In the absence of such definitions being offered by the Government in response to the committee’s stage 1 report, a number of members lodged amendments at stage 2. The amendments that were lodged by David Stewart, John Scott and Mark Ruskell were entirely constructive and well intentioned and they sought, in line with the committee’s stage 1 report, to secure helpful clarity. Unfortunately, as the stage 2 process unfolded, it became clear that none of them would achieve their laudable intentions and overcome the challenges that are involved in seeking to define circuses, wild animals or domesticated animals.
The exchanges on those matters were splendidly and humorously captured in a
Holyrood magazine sketch that was penned by Liam Kirkaldy. If members have not read it, I highly recommend getting online and doing so. The discussions on the omissions of raccoon dogs, woolly lemurs, tamarins, vicuñas, night monkeys and squirrel monkeys and on the ambiguities surrounding wallabies in the context of John Scott and Mark Ruskell’s amendments were quite amusing at the time, and are even more so when wrapped up in a superbly written piece.
Of course, there is a serious side to the issue. Where possible, we needed to find some mechanism of addressing the legitimate concerns that had been highlighted. In the case of the definition of a circus at least, I appreciated the support of colleagues and of the cabinet secretary in backing a stage 2 amendment that I lodged, which affords ministers a power to bring forward regulations, either to define an activity that was perhaps contending that it was not a travelling circus, when it was indeed intended to be subject to the bill, or similarly, to define an activity that was never intended to be captured but might become the subject of efforts to contend that it was.
In moving the amendment, I made the point that, if accompanied by clear guidance, it would go some way to addressing the committee’s concerns and would not create wriggle room either to allow activities that should be captured by the scope of the bill to escape it, or to allow what might be described as acts or entertainments that were never intended to be captured to be caught.
I understand the concerns that were raised by the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee, but I hope that the cabinet secretary has addressed those in her comments.
In conclusion, Presiding Officer, let me acknowledge, as others have, the contribution made by a raft of individuals and organisations in getting us to the point that we are at today, and I welcome the cross-party support that it appears the bill will command at decision time.
I n the stage 1 debate there were plenty of puns. My contribution will certainly not be as slick as Donald Cameron’s, but I ask members to bear with me, as it will certainly not be irrelephant. Perhaps the Labour group should have been leading today’s debate, with the bill going through Parliament at a time when the only circus to look forward to is the next Labour leadership election. Since Kezia Dugdale’s trip to visit the wild animals in the jungle, she certainly has the koalafications.
However, as I have said previously, the light-hearted manner in which members across the chamber have approached this and previous debates in no way reflects the serious manner with which we have dealt with the bill, or indeed the importance with which the committee and my colleagues treat any subject relating to animal welfare.
The Scottish Conservatives supported the general principles of the bill at stage 1 and lodged amendments at stage 2, reflecting the commitment that my colleagues and I have to ensuring we have good laws to secure the highest standard of animal welfare. We support a ban on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses on ethical and welfare grounds by delivering robust legislation.
Across the chamber, we have heard of a number of concerns over the drafting of the bill, which we now believe the cabinet secretary has taken on board. Those concerns were chiefly around definitions of a wild animal and a travelling circus. Our concerns have always been founded on the desire to see the most effective legislation without either leaving wriggle room for those who would seek to continue to use wild animals in this type of activity or outlawing other types of activity that were never intended to be covered by the bill, including llamas and raptors at country fairs or even sheepdog trials. Vague definitions risked criminalising those who put on a show or event where animals have to be transported to the event, and that needed to be clarified.
The committee’s view was that the bill as introduced did not fully address the issues that it set out to cover and that it was at serious risk of capturing animal performances and shows that it may not have been intended to cover. The bill as amended should now not result in another piece of weak legislation from the Scottish Government that will fall down or be ineffective in the courts.
The fact that little time was spent exploring the use of the ethical argument behind the bill indicates that right across the chamber, whether on welfare or ethical grounds, we believe that public performances by wild animals are no longer acceptable. The debate surrounding the bill has largely centred on poor drafting and fears that it had the potential to fail in what it sets out to achieve. We on these benches believe that significant progress has been made and we will be supporting the bill this evening.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to what I hope will be the next step in ending cruelty and distress inflicted on animals in travelling circuses. Like you, Presiding Officer, I am a deputy convener of the cross-party group on animal welfare, so I was delighted that we unanimously agreed the principles of the bill when it was previously debated. I am sure that today we will also unanimously make it clear that the days of exploiting wild animals for human gratification in Scotland will soon be nothing more than a shameful memory, sending a welcome, powerful message about the value that we place on animal welfare.
The use of wild animals in travelling circuses is fundamentally cruel, and a full ban is the only way to stop that mistreatment returning to Scotland in future. Highly respected animal welfare charities such as OneKind have rightly made the powerful case that there are strong ethical and animal welfare grounds to ban the practice.
The mobile nature of travelling circuses means that they invariably fail to effectively recreate a wild animal’s natural environment. Animals are often subjected to restrictive conditions and uninteresting surroundings, without the space to recreate their natural behaviour, to explore, to socialise or to find food as they would in the wild. That can have a wide range of serious physical and psychological implications for the animals.
Likewise, the performances and tricks that animals are forced to do require intensive training and can inflict significant amounts of pain and distress on the animals. There is widespread use of negative reinforcement and, in some instances, abusive training techniques. Even in instances of best practice, the very act of forcing wild animals to perform on command alters their natural behaviour and suppresses their natural instincts, which is directly in opposition to their welfare and is fundamentally unethical.
There is a great deal of research into the impact of travelling circuses on the welfare and wellbeing of wild animals that supports that view. The conclusion of research that was undertaken by the Welsh Government was that
“captive wild animals in circuses and other travelling animal shows do not achieve their optimal animal welfare requirements” and
“the evidence would therefore support a ban”.
Those are not problems that can be fixed through increased regulation or strengthened guidelines; they are inherent to travelling circuses and must be addressed with a full ban.
We now have considerably more insight into the intelligence and sentience of wild animals than we did in the past, yet the appalling use of wild animals for entertainment continues. By reducing wild animals to a source of entertainment at the expense of their wellbeing, travelling circuses contribute to a culture that undervalues the welfare and rights of animals.
The bill as introduced was by no means perfect. I thank the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, which has tried to tackle those imperfections and shortcomings thorough its commendable work on the bill, which has pre-empted many of the potential problems that the bill might have faced. It is vital that the laws that we pass are legally watertight and easily enforceable, and the changes that have been made in line with the committee’s recommendations have significantly improved the bill. The inclusion of more clearly defined terms and the establishment of ministerial powers to clarify those definitions protect against wilful misinterpretation and potential loopholes, although more could have been done to incorporate that message in the bill itself. Likewise, I am pleased that David Stewart’s amendment clarifying what constitutes an offence was also agreed.
However, I am disappointed that the Scottish Government has failed to respond to other points that were raised by the committee and by members during the stage 1 debate. In particular, serious concerns were raised by council officials and the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals about the practicalities of enforcement. The discretionary nature of local authorities’ enforcement duty, combined with the continued cuts to their budgets, pose serious questions about the bill’s enforceability. Enforcement on the ground must be closely monitored and the possibility of an inspector appointed by ministers must be revisited should there be any evidence of problems in that regard.
There is also a need to ensure that there are no gaps in legislation covering performance, display or exhibition of animals in Scotland, and I look forward to the Scottish Government coming forward with new licensing requirements to further protect the welfare of all animals that are used for public performances, including those that are not covered by the bill.
The bill is a positive step forward that finally consigns this archaic, outdated cruelty to the history books where it belongs.
I declare an interest as a member of the British Veterinary Association.
I welcome today’s stage 3 debate, which marks a watershed moment. For years, there have been incremental improvements in welfare legislation to protect key freedoms and place responsibilities on animal keepers, but this is the first time that ethical reasons have been used alongside the welfare evidence to bring about a change, and that is welcome.
The bill fundamentally recognises that meeting basic welfare needs is not enough and that for a wild animal to be unable to display its natural behaviours for its entire life is unethical and unacceptable. The educational benefits of seeing wild animals in a travelling circus and the conservation benefits are non-existent. There might have been educational benefits in an age before the internet or TV, but we live in a different world in which the power and grace of a hunting tiger or the social intelligence of an elephant is displayed on prime-time TV or on the digital whiteboard of a school classroom.
Today, an important precedent is being set for anyone who is concerned about the rights of animals. and it begs the question about where we go next. I welcome the Government’s commitment to review further the regulations of all performance animals. It would have been better to have conducted the full review in advance of the introduction of the bill, as the Welsh Government did, with clear conclusions as to which animal performances to ban, regulate further or leave alone. The use of wild animals in travelling circuses is the starkest example of a practice that needs to be banned, but we should not have closed minds when it comes to reforming how domestic and wild animals are used in other performances, particularly in static circuses.
Although some members might poke fun at the idea of Christmas reindeer or birds of prey displays at garden centres being further regulated, I ask them to look at the evidence with an open mind. If there are welfare issues that need to be answered, why would we not want to regulate further?
I turn to the bill’s consideration at stage 2. It is clear that there were concerns about which animals should be included in the ban and about the definition of a circus. The fact that the cabinet secretary pointed out that there were omissions in John Scott’s amendment and my amendment suggested to me that there probably is a list of animals that the Government considers are captured by the ban but that the Government just does not want to include it in the bill.
However, the committee’s central argument that there needed to be greater definition has been acknowledged, and I welcome the fact that draft guidance has been produced by the Government and a commitment has been given that it will be finalised and introduced at the same time as the act is implemented.
I believe that officials have written out to stakeholders stating that the guidance cannot give a definitive interpretation of the law and that questions of interpretation are ultimately determined by the courts. I hope that we do not get to the point of a court test and that the eventual guidance proves adequate.
The bill is a further step in our journey towards having a society that respects and values animals. There are many more steps to take, but I look forward to approving the bill at decision time tonight.
As Mark Ruskell did, I declare that I am an honorary member of the BVA. Unlike most other speakers in the debate, I do not have the benefit of having sat through the committee’s deliberations. Therefore, I am all the more grateful to the ECCLR Committee for its efforts and to all those people who submitted evidence on the bill, which is an important piece of legislation that the Scottish Liberal Democrats strongly support and look forward to voting for later on this afternoon.
The concerns that I outlined at stage 1 were shared by most members. I concentrated on a couple of areas—the decision to pursue an ethical approach rather than a welfare approach, and the definitional problems that others have already articulated. I am pleased that considerable progress appears to have been made on the latter since the stage 1 debate. I think that David Stewart and Graeme Dey have had a hand in that. I acknowledge the movement from the Government in addressing many of those concerns, and I note that OneKind and Animal Defenders International believe that a combination of regulation-making powers and draft guidance have successfully addressed a number of the concerns that they identified at stage 1.
I note that the cabinet secretary has clarified that the ban is targeted at travelling circuses, so that static circuses and any other enterprises that are not considered to be travelling circuses are not caught by the ban, and that the ban applies only when animals are being transported. I know from correspondence that I received from a constituent that there are people who wish the legislation to be extended to cover a far wider range of circumstances, including fixed animal shows involving sea mammals, falconry or other animals. I understand why the Government and the committee were reluctant to go down that route in the context of this bill, but I acknowledge that the Scottish Government has since announced its intention to develop new licensing requirements to protect all wild and domestic animals that are involved in displays or performances that are not addressed by the bill or in those that take place in licensed zoos. I look forward to considering those proposals in due course.
In the meantime, the use of a regulation-making power—which will be subject to the affirmative procedure—to establish and amend the types of animals that will be covered seems to me to be a sensible approach. As the cabinet secretary said, it is also the approach that is taken to secondary legislation on animal welfare. It seems to be a logical approach and one that will allow the committee to scrutinise any such regulation in due course.
As for the debate about whether an ethical or a welfare approach should be taken, the cabinet secretary expressed concern about the lack of evidence that existed for a welfare approach and the fear that the adoption of such an approach could leave the bill open to legal challenge. I am not entirely sure that I know where the committee got to in that debate, but the issue did not seem to present a reason to delay or reject the bill.
In conclusion, the Scottish Liberal Democrats welcome the ban on using wild animals in travelling circuses, which reflects our values as a society and the importance that we attach to the highest standards of animal welfare.
I am sure that I speak for all members of the committee when I say that I am pleased to see the bill finally being put to sleep at the end of stage 3, not least because the issues relating to the use of wild animals in circuses have been the subject of deliberation by campaigners, policy makers and legislators for decades.
As we know, part of the existing framework for regulation in this area is covered by the Performing Animals (Regulation) Act 1925, and the issue was raised again in responses during the passage of the Scottish Government’s Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.
There are some clear reasons why the scope of the bill that we are debating today has been purposely focused on wild animals in travelling circuses, but it is mainly because the use of wild animals in travelling circuses involves animals whose nature is still genetically and behaviourally hardwired; the performance of behaviours or tricks for entertainment that are not natural behaviours; and inadequate temporary or mobile accommodation that does not allow animals to act naturally. It is also because there is little or no educational or conservation value in such animals’ appearance in a travelling circus. All those issues combine to present a cumulative ethical challenge to Scottish society, giving strong ethical reasons for the ban.
I am delighted that Scotland is leading the way on improving animal welfare, not just through this bill but through plans to develop new licensing requirements to protect the welfare of wild and domestic animals that are used for public performances or display in circumstances that are not covered by the bill. I understand that that will be achieved through a Scottish statutory instrument under the 2006 act, which will require further consultation and an affirmative resolution. There is more work to do, although that legislation is intended to apply to all wild and domestic animal displays or performances except for those that are already banned under the bill or those taking place in zoos that are already licensed under zoo legislation. Hopefully, that means that there will be no gaps once the legislation is introduced.
At the start of the passage of this bill, concerns were voiced by those who felt that a more comprehensive approach would be preferable to what they saw as the piecemeal approach that was being taken. Andrew Mitchell from the City of Edinburgh Council called for there to be one piece of legislation. However, it was acknowledged, not least by Nicola O’Brien of the Captive Animals Protection Society, that a comprehensive review of legislation would be a lengthy process, and that taking action now would have more immediate impact. I am content that the so-called piecemeal action is delivering the desired outcome much more quickly than would otherwise have been the case. The bill will enable the ban to be put in place immediately.
Colin Smyth raised the issue of inspections and enforcement. Earlier in the process, I had concerns about that, but I am satisfied that we have got it right at this stage.
I was pleased to see the inclusion of children and young people in the consultation process; the committee did not just go through a box-ticking exercise, but ensured that their opinions were heard. One of the key ethical concerns on which the bill is based includes the adverse impact that seeing wild animals in travelling circuses might have on children and young people, with regard to the development of respectful and responsible attitudes to animals in general. An overwhelming majority of respondents to the Scottish Government’s consultation—94.7 per cent—agreed that that was a concern, which is why the committee identified the importance of engaging with children and young people on the issue. The committee convener, Graeme Dey, alluded to that. As a result, 1,045 children and young people were asked, through the Scottish Parliament education service, whether it should be an offence to use wild animals in travelling circuses, and 815 responded in favour of a ban. In addition, an online survey that was conducted with Young Scot last September asked young people aged 11 to 25 the same question. Some 80 per cent of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the proposed ban, and 57 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that seeing wild animals in travelling circuses would make young people respect them less.
Judging by the verdict of the next generation of decision makers, it is clear that we have taken the right steps to tackle this important ethical issue in the most timely way possible. I am pleased that we are leading the way in the UK.
Today the subject was travelling circuses. This must surely lead to a similar position being taken on static circuses. In the committee, there was much discussion about the protection of wild and domestic animals performing in other venues, whether travelling or not, and that must be addressed in future. Mark Ruskell and others stressed that point.
David Stewart highlighted welfare issues, as did others. Scottish Labour has a robust approach to animal welfare and ethics under his leadership in that brief, and animals in circuses is one of a range of issues that we must go on to tackle. Ensuring that the legislation on hunting with dogs is fit for purpose, banning shock collars, fighting to reverse tail docking exemptions, consulting on a ban of culling mountain hares, and tackling the exotic animal trade are a few of those issues.
Today, Emma Harper has a members’ business debate called adopt don’t shop, which is timely, coming before Christmas. That and many other actions across the chamber show that there is cross-party support for many of the animal welfare and ethics issues that Parliament will address in the rest of the session. Angus MacDonald and Graeme Dey spoke about the next generation’s interest in and concern about those issues.
Definitions in bills always take up committee and Scottish Government time—rightly so—and this bill was no exception. Sometimes we revert to commonsense approaches and, at other times, it seems to be correct to define or have lists in secondary legislation. That has been challenging in the consideration of this bill. The committee grappled with definitions throughout the bill process, as did the Scottish Government. We discussed circuses with or without tents, definitions of wild and domestic animals, and lists. It is reassuring that the bill was amended at stage 2 to grant Scottish ministers the power to
“by regulations describe a particular type of undertaking, act, entertainment or similar thing” that is or is not to be regarded as a travelling circus
“for the purposes of this Act.”
On the definition of a wild animal, I am convinced that the power that was agreed at stage 2 provides certainty in difficult or borderline cases to ensure that circus operators know what kind of animal may or may not be used in travelling circuses in order to avoid committing an offence. It is also reassuring that the regulations will be subject to the affirmative procedure.
The lawyers among us, including the cabinet secretary and Donald Cameron, made the point that it is not just that the definitions were arcane; definitions must be as exact as possible. The cabinet secretary’s earlier marks relating to the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee’s deliberations were reassuring.
The committee heard evidence from local authorities about enforcement procedures and Angus MacDonald gave us some reassurance on that. Absolute clarity in regulation and guidance is essential to ensure that action can be taken. Cuts to budgets could cause challenges for local authority officers. However, in its briefing for stage 3, OneKind states:
“The Scottish Government has issued clarification on a number of points raised in the Stage 1 report, has created regulation-making powers to clarify definitions, and has produced draft guidance that clarifies some of the most significant policy areas. OneKind is grateful to the Scottish Government and to Members of the ECCLR Committee for probing these issues.”
I think and hope that we have got it right. In the words of my colleague Colin Smyth, having wild animals in travelling circuses is fundamentally cruel. We strongly support a ban and look forward to the passing of the bill and to the Parliament debating and acting on animal ethical and welfare issues in the future.
I declare an interest as an honorary member of the British Veterinary Association. Along with it, I welcome the passage of the bill.
The BVA and the Scottish Conservatives believe that the needs of non-domesticated wild animals cannot be met in the environment of a travelling circus, where their ability to express normal behaviour is likely to be restricted. We therefore welcome the passing of the bill, which builds on the five welfare needs of animals as detailed in the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 and which allows Scotland to be first in developing such legislation in the United Kingdom.
We welcome the cabinet secretary’s assurances that she will develop guidance as required in the bill, and the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee is grateful to the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee for picking up the Government’s oversight in that regard when lodging its stage 2 amendment on definitions of wild animals.
We acknowledge the hard work of our clerks in the ECCLR Committee and the Parliament’s bill team, who have supported us by helping with amendments as well as with the bill. We also thank the many witnesses who gave evidence to us in committee as well as those who responded to our call for evidence at stage 1, and we trust that the bill will prevent wild animals from ever performing in travelling circuses in Scotland again.
I joined the committee in the autumn, when discussions about the definitions of travelling circuses and wild animals and about lists of animals were still going on. David Stewart, Mark Ruskell, Donald Cameron, Graeme Dey and I can perhaps call ourselves survivors of that debate. We have all referred to that today and, like them, I had residual concerns over those definitions. The amendments that the Government lodged at stage 2 were a welcome response to the probing amendments that were lodged by David Stewart, Mark Ruskell and me at that time.
I also acknowledge that the Government has endeavoured to respond to the concern of the DPLR Committee and others that the effect of the powers in new sections 3A(1)(a), 3A(2)(a), 3B(1)(a) and 3B(2)(a) is unusual in principle because the provisions are indicative only and the regulations are apparently not sufficient or the appropriate form of instrument to deliver the interpretations that the amendments seek to provide. I welcome the cabinet secretary’s detailed assurances today that guidance, which is a more appropriate form of instrument, will be developed to address the concerns of the DPLR Committee and to make clearer the intentions of the bill. The guidance should be put in place forthwith, and it should be available when the bill becomes law after receiving royal assent. I welcome the cabinet secretary’s assurance today that the guidance will be available timeously.
Our work is done with regard to the Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Bill. Again, our grateful thanks go to those who have contributed in any way to the passage of the bill, and I look forward to the cabinet secretary’s closing remarks. The Conservatives will vote for the bill at decision time.
I will speak very slowly, Presiding Officer.
I thank all the members who are here today and who have taken part in a lively, informed and very interesting debate. The subject is of intrinsic interest even to those who may simply have wandered into the chamber or who are on chamber duty—as it is known—to listen to some of the concerns and issues, which people may not have thought were anything to do with this particular bill. A number of members commented on the fact that that is precisely the kind of thing that happens when a committee begins to unpack something that looks relatively straightforward on the surface. The minute that one begins to look at it with some care and detail, one understands that it is not as straightforward or as simple as it looked at first sight.
The debate has been constructive, as was the engagement all the way through the process, and it is a joy—sometimes a rare joy in a parliamentary set-up—to be able to say that. It reflects the concern that people have and demonstrates the extent to which we all agree on the importance and value of the good intentions behind the bill.
I have been struck today, as I was at stage 1, by members’ passion for this issue. However, I am grateful that they have looked beyond a purely emotional response, which would have been the easy approach, in order to fully unpack the practicalities around the proposed prohibition, some of which I dealt with in my opening speech. Those issues reflect the fact that this is not a fixed situation. I referred to llamas and alpacas in my opening speech, but that was not meant to be a joking reference. Those animals would have seemed exotic and wild to our parents’ generation but look like domesticated animals to us now. They have undergone a change in how they are viewed and treated and in how they live in our country.
I thank the Parliament and all the members of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee—indeed, all the members of the Delegated Powers and Law Reform Committee, too—for their constructive comments and invaluable support during the bill’s passage.
Furthermore, I thank all the organisations and stakeholders in the animal welfare sector and the circus industry, local authorities and representatives of our screen industry who made constructive contributions to the debate. I look forward to including them in continuing dialogue as we hopefully move forward to implement this landmark bill.
I cannot mention everyone, but I pay particular tribute to OneKind for lodging the petition that brought the issue of wild animals in circuses sharply back into focus in 2011 and to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities for its continuing help to make the bill and the accompanying guidance fit for purpose.
I pay tribute to the travelling circus industry. This has been a difficult issue for it. The few circuses in the UK that still use wild animals are small family-run operations for which the circus is not so much a business as a way of life. They have debated and co-operated throughout the development of the bill with courtesy and openness, and I remind them that travelling circuses without wild animals will always be welcome in Scotland. Our circus sector is an example of how circus can develop as an art form and remain popular without using wild animals.
I will take a minute or two to go through some of the speeches that we have heard this afternoon. A couple of members—Donald Cameron and Finlay Carson—tried to bring some humour to the debate. I have to say that Donald Cameron carried that off a little better than Finlay Carson, whose own colleagues looked perplexed and then somewhat bemused by his attempts to inject some humour into proceedings. However, they did try, and that has been a mark of how engagement on the bill has proceeded throughout the process.
Donald Cameron rightly flagged up the role of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee. If members think that the jokes that have been cracked here are funny, they should look up the proceedings of the committee and read the
Holyrood magazine article that Graeme Dey mentioned.
David Stewart attempted a lesson in Roman history, which was interesting, but he also highlighted abuses and reminded us of the reason why we are here.
Graeme Dey referred helpfully to the views of young people. It is easy to forget about the extensive survey work that was undertaken and how important it was in the early stages of the bill.
I say to Mark Ruskell that there really is no list. The committee and the member himself must surely be aware of how difficult compiling a list would be, having attempted the exercise themselves. Peter Jolly’s circus had a list of wild animals that the circus was using, one of which was a zebu. I have no idea what a zebu is—I would guess that it is a hybrid of a zebra and something else—but it is an example of what would have been left off any attempted list of wild animals, which shows why there is no list.