Circuses will be banned from using wild animals in their shows under new British Government proposals published after a long-running campaign.
Politicians and animal welfare groups have repeatedly called for the measure and in June 2011 MPs overwhelmingly supported a blanket ban, but ministers were initially reluctant to meet their demands due to fears over possible legal action from circus operators.
The Government's plan will make it an offence for any operator to use a wild animal in performance or exhibition in a travelling circus in England from December 1, 2015.
Agriculture minister David Heath told MPs: "This 'grace period' is to allow operators of travelling circuses a reasonable period of time to adapt their businesses and organise suitable care arrangements for their wild animals."
Under the terms of the draft Wild Animals in Circuses Bill the ban will cover any creature not normally domesticated in Great Britain.
The Government has already introduced strict regulations to improve conditions for performing animals until the law is changed.
Tory Mark Pritchard, whose backbench motion in 2011 calling for a ban was passed without a vote in the Commons, welcomed the announcement.
He said: "I am delighted the Government have finally decided to introduce a ban.
"This is a victory for animal welfare and common sense - and proves that politicians who have belief, stick to their principles, and persevere despite hostile opposition, can still shape events."
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