MPs voted to ban use of wild animals in circuses, despite David Cameron’s attempts to discourage the measure. The decision, hailed by campaigners as a "historic victory for animal welfare and protection", was backed by MPs of all parties.
A ban on lions, tigers, elephants and other wild animals in circuses should come into effect from July next year.
The vote is embarrassing for prime minister Cameron. Conservative MP Mark Pritchard, who led the campaign, said that Downing Street tried to bribe him with the prospect of a “pretty trivial” government job to get him to change his position.
Pritchard said he was told Cameron would look upon it "dimly" if he pushed for a vote on banning use of wild animals in the circus.
"I may just be a little council house lad from a very poor background, but that background gives me a backbone," Pritchard said.
“I'm not going to be cowed by the whips of the Prime Minister on an issue I feel passionately about and have conviction about.”
Pritchard likened the use of wild animals in circuses to outlawed practices such as dog fighting and badger baiting.
Polls have consistently shown that the public supports a ban.
Animal welfare groups have hailed the ban as a victory.
"This is a win for democracy as well as animal welfare,” the RSPCA said.
Animal Defenders International, which secretly filmed an elephant at Bobby Roberts Circus being beaten, said: "This debate and vote has exposed the Government and demonstrated just how out of touch they have been with their peers, the public, and animal welfare groups."
Singer Leona Lewis tweeted her delight at the ban, writing: "Such incredible news today! Thanks (Abbott) for supporting
the circus animal ban! U have made the difference!
"We did it! We did it! I'm just so happy thank u all for supporting the ban our voices were heard!"
Wild animals including tigers, zebras and camels are kept by some circuses in the UK.