The RSPCA has said that the government must fulfil its promise to ban circuses from using wild animals.
In June 2011 MPs voted for a ban on wild animals in circuses, and in March this year Defra minister Lord Taylor said the department is "developing proposals to introduce a bill as soon as parliamentary time allows".
A Circus Licensing Scheme to ensure "decent conditions for wild animals in travelling circuses" until the new law could be drafted was agreed last week.
The RSPCA said the scheme could delay the ban and could even make it easier to introduce new species of wild animals to circuses – including bears, primates and even orcas.
RSPCA chief executive Gavin Grant said:
"We were delighted in March when the government announced a ban would happen. Seven months later and nothing has happened to make the ban a reality.
"The new circus licensing scheme could make the life of wild animals in circuses worse not better and delay the end of this so-called 'entertainment'.
"Anything short of a full ban is simply unacceptable and will fail to meet the needs of animals such as lions, tigers and zebras.
"Let's get on with what needs to be done and stop these animals from being dragged around the country in beastwagons or confined to cramped temporary cages."