LONDON - British lawmakers agreed Thursday to ban the use of wild animals in circuses, in a non-binding decision that will nevertheless embarrass ministers who insist there are legal obstacles to such a move.
Members of parliament (MPs) agreed without a vote to back a motion directing the government to introduce "regulation banning the use of all wild animals in circuses from July 2012."
In 2009, there were about 39 wild animals being used in circuses in Britain, including elephants, tigers, lions, camels, zebras and crocodiles, although there are no longer any elephants kept, according to government figures.
Agriculture Minister Jim Paice said the government has proposed a tough licensing scheme for circuses using wild animals to ensure they are well cared for, but said it had concerns about possible legal challenges to a full ban.
"The government is determined to stamp out cruelty and bad welfare for animals in circuses," he said during a heated debate in the House of Commons.
The motion calling for a ban was proposed by Mark Pritchard, an MP from Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative party.
He said Cameron's office had warned him to withdraw the motion or face the premier's displeasure, but he refused, having campaigned for many years against a practice he says is cruel and is opposed by the majority of voters.
Image: Tom Raftery / via Flickr