No doubt about it, we Scots have a lot to be proud of and if the Government, which is considering a ban on wild animals in circuses, does the right thing, we'll have another reason to feel good about our country.

West Hollywood, California, where I live and work, implemented a ban last year, joining Austria, Bolivia, Colombia, Greece, Mexico City, Peru, Sweden and Winnipeg, all of which no longer permit cruel animal acts.

Let's hope Scotland is next.

As an actor, I've done my fair share of sitting around in trailers, waiting to be called on set, and I can tell you that it's far from exciting.

Animals used in circuses spend most of their lives in trailers and often in chains.

They are carted from one show to the next and denied their most fundamental needs, never having an opportunity to roam over large distances, socialise with their own kind, hunt, forage or make independent choices about how to go about their business.

This lifestyle causes them to suffer tremendously. I've seen what the pressures of the entertainment business can do to my fellow human actors, but wild animals that are forced to perform under the threat of punishment often become depressed and sick and also develop neurotic types of behaviour from the stress and abuse.

Big cats pace in cages barely large enough to hold them. Elephants that naturally roam over vast African plains or Asian jungles sway from side to side out of boredom and frustration.

Who can forget the harrowing video footage of Anne, the elephant used by Bobby Roberts' (not so) Super Circus, that was hit with a pitchfork and a club while she was chained up and unable to escape the beating?

That can be par for the course for elephants in circuses. They have the spirit beaten out of them before they even step into the ring.

And then there was Mary Cawley, who repeatedly kicked and beat a small chimpanzee named Trudy as the terrified and traumatised animal screamed.

Her husband, Roger, was convicted of whipping a sick elephant that had collapsed the day before and the couple's elephant trainer, Stephen Gills, was jailed after he beat elephants with iron bars and pitchforks.

These cases of abuse aren't isolated incidents. Animals don't perform painful and confusing tricks by choice. They do so because they know that, if they don't, they'll be punished.

In the wild, tigers would run away from flaming hoops, not jump through them. And has anyone ever seen wild elephants doing pirouettes?

And it's not only exotic animals that suffer in the circus. Horses and ponies are sensitive animals that thrive in large herds. They need to move about freely, so constant tethering leaves them listless and depressed.

And other than the few moments when they are performing, dogs used by circuses typically live in cramped holding crates, without the opportunity to curl up on a comfortable sofa or play a game of fetch for the fun of it. In the desert, where they belong, camels live in social herds and roam over vast distances.

Mother camels are devoted to their bairns, and calves may nurse for up to 18 months. Camels used in the circus industry are torn away from their nurturing mothers when they are still young so that they can be broken in and trained.

Fortunately, it's been years since any circus tried to foist beaten-down animals on the Scottish public, so it should be easy for our Government to make it official by permanently banning animal circuses in Scotland, without fuss or loss of livelihood.

And, in the meantime, we can also do our bit to help these animals simply by refusing to give our money to any attraction that exploits animals for human entertainment, be it a circus, marine park or zoo.

For the animals' sake, the show must not go on.


* Ross McCall is an actor and producer. He was born in Port Glasgow.