The use of wild animals for entertainment purposes in Ireland will soon be prohibited under Irish law.

The new regulations, which come into effect from January 2018, were singed signed today by Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed.

"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.

The decision to delay the legislation until the beginning of the new year was taken so that circus owners would have a chance to provide “alternative arrangements” for the animals in question.

The progressive move comes after a number of local authorities refused to allow public land to be used by circuses featuring wild animals.

And while a number of circus operators have raised concerns, Mr Creed explained that “while the retirement of the small numbers of wild animals in Irish circuses might seem like a loss, [he] is am confident that this move will do more to secure the future of the circus community.”

Adding: “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 new ban has been praised by animal rights groups across the country with Animal Rights Action Network’s John Carmody saying that today was a “great day.”

“Finally Ireland can raise its head and be proud that the country has finally taken a meaningful and real step to stop the suffering of wild animals forced to travel and perform in Irish circuses. We spent 20 plus years fighting for this day and here it is,” he said.

The Circuses Regulations 2017 comes under the Animal Health & Welfare Act 2013.