The use of wild animals in circuses will be banned in Ireland from January 2018. 

Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed has signed new regulations banning the use of wild animals in circuses.

"The use of wild animals for entertainment purposes in circuses can no longer be permitted. This is the general view of the public at large and a position I am happy to endorse," he said. 

He described the move as progressive, adding that it was reflective of the Government's commitment to animal welfare. 

The decision to implement the regulations on 1 January 2018 was taken to allow "a modest lead in period to allow for alternative arrangements to be made for the animals in question," the minister explained. 

He welcomed the fact that many local authorities had shown their concerns by not allowing public land to be used by circuses featuring wild animals.  

Mr Creed said that while he appreciated the care and concern circus operators and owners had for their animals, "the ability of a travelling circus to provide fully for all the needs of animals such as camels or tigers is no longer a tenable proposition".

He said: "While the retirement of the small numbers of wild animals in Irish circuses might seem like a loss I am confident that this move will do more to secure the future of the circus community.

"Coming in line with modern welfare standards will mean that greater numbers of the public will be more comfortable with going to the circus."

The Circuses (Prohibition on Use of Wild Animals) Regulations 2017 comes under the Animal Health & Welfare Act 2013. 

The Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 was a major piece of legislation that updated and replaced around 40 pieces of primary legislation in the area of animal welfare and health, going back over 100 years, including the 1911 Protection of Animals Act. 

The Department of Agriculture said the Animal Health & Welfare Act 2013 has been very well received both upon enactment and as it has been rolled out and implemented.

All of the major animal welfare NGOs and stakeholders have seen it as a major and progressive improvement in the area, the Department added. 

In a statement, John Carmody of Animal Rights Action Network (ARAN) said the group spent over 20 years fighting for this day.

He said: "We thank the Irish public who backed the campaign, local councillors around the country who introduced local council bans and the people who voted with their wallets and steered clear of animal-act circus.

"We thank Minister Creed but he must now work to end fur farms, puppy farms and hare coursing. Today is a great day."