The Status of Wild-Animal Circuses in the UK and Ireland


More than 50 countries have national or local bans or partial bans on the use of wild animals in circuses, showing that a growing number of people don’t want to support the abuse inherent in forcing animals to perform. Sadly, these cruel spectacles are still allowed to take place in some countries, including Wales and Northern Ireland.

Here’s an overview of the situation in the UK and Ireland and guidance on the most effective way to take action for animals where you live.

England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Republic of Ireland | Local Councils | Other Countries


In summer 2019, a bill banning wild-animal circuses in England was passed following over a decade of campaigning by PETA and other animal protection organisations. In January 2020, the ban came into force, sparing six reindeer, four zebras, three camels, three raccoons, a fox, a macaw, and a zebu from suffering in the two UK circuses that still had wild animals.

Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Assembly once suggested that it would follow the lead of the Republic of Ireland with regard to circus legislation. But since the Assembly collapsed in January 2017, no progress has been made for animals in circuses.


Scotland has banned wild-animal circuses. A 2015 public consultation found that an overwhelming 98% of respondents supported a ban, and afterwards, over 13,000 PETA supporters contacted the Scottish government to ask it to follow through by introducing one as soon as possible. Then, in May 2017, Scotland became the first country in the UK to introduce legislation banning wild-animal circuses. On 20 December, members of the Scottish Parliament unanimously passed the Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Act 2018.


In July 2018, the Welsh government released a statement in which it said, “The way animals are treated is an important reflection of society and over the next 12 months, a bill will be introduced to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses on welfare grounds.” The bill was introduced in 2019, and the ban came into force on 1 December 2020.

Republic of Ireland

On 9 November 2017, the minister for agriculture, food and the marine, Michael Creed, announced legislation outlawing wild-animal circuses in Ireland, which came into force on 1 January 2018.

Local Councils

More than 200 local authorities in the UK and Ireland have already prohibited circuses from using wild animals on public land, often as a result of hearing from concerned residents.

Get in touch with your councillors (find their details here for the UK or here for Ireland) and urge them to do the same. We have a template letter you can use.

Other Countries

Visit the websites of PETA’s international affiliates to find out how to speak out against circuses in other parts of the world:

Check out our blog for the latest news from our campaign to end wild-animal circuses.