Scotland has become the first country in the UK to ban anyone using wild animals in travelling circuses.
The legilsation, which has just been passed, will ban the use of non-domesticated animals for either performance or exhibition in travelling shows in Scotland.
Cunningham said: “This is an important act that will not only prevent travelling circuses ever showing wild animals in Scotland in the future, but will demonstrate to the wider world that we are one of the growing number of countries that no longer condones the use of wild animals in this way.”
She also added that any travelling circuses not using wild animals will ‘always be welcome’ in Scotland.
Elisa Allen, director of animal rights group Peta, said: “Captivity is a living hell for animals such as tigers and lions, and a circus environment can’t possibly meet their complex needs.
“These animals are understandably frustrated, stressed and depressed from a lifetime of being denied the opportunity to do anything that’s natural and important to them, kept caged in trailers that are hauled around the country, and forced to perform confusing tricks under the big top out of some Victorian-era sense of amusement.”
She added that the decision should ‘light a fire’ under the government in Westminster to follow suit.
Labour’s Claudia Beamish also said that she hoped static circuses would come under a simliar ban in the future, while Green MSP Mark Ruskell said it was ‘unethical’ to make animals live in circuses their whole lives. Lib Dem Liam McArthur also strongly backed the bill, making it unanimous.
The ban, which is the first of its kind in the UK, does not apply to static circuses. However, according to the BBC, one circus leader warned MSPs during committee consideration that the law would eventually close zoos.
The ban on wild animals in circuses in the Republic of Ireland is also due to come into force from 1 January 2018.
A grand total of 18 other EU countries have banned, or at least restricted, the use of wild animals in travelling circuses – along with another 14 countries across the world. That doesn’t, however, include the UK, as a 2007 review by the UK government found insufficient evidence to support science-based ban on the grounds of welfare.