Posted: 1 February 2012. Updated: 6 November 2012
Six years of investigations, exposés, lobbying, demonstrations, events and more conclude as Peru bans wild animals in circuses.
Here we look back on the intense ADI campaign that has ended the misery of circus animals in two South American countries. And we ask, are you ready to help us step up the pressure for more bans?
Collecting the evidence
Back in 2005, ADI investigators worked undercover in seven randomly selected circuses in Peru.
As the horrific footage came back from our undercover teams we scarcely dared to believe it could be stopped – but we knew we had to try. Six years of hard work later and the misery we exposed has been banned.
The evidence showed systematic violence against circus animals, including lions with Circo Las Galaxias whipped and beaten with weapons; abuse of a capuchin monkey with Circo Zafari Kids, and an ocelot; many animals were subjected to verbal intimidation.
Levels of confinement and deprivation were shocking, for example , lions living in a tiny beast wagon, without access to natural daylight; primates permanently chained down and other animals in tiny boxes.
The battle for legislation
We launched the Stop Circus Suffering campaign in 2007 with the support of the local groups in Lima. A report and DVD featured evidence from Peru and other South American countries and this was presented to the Peruvian Congress with proposals for legislation.
The campaign built up a head of steam. Congressmen Alejandro Rebaza and Jose Antonio Urquizo immediately tabled bills banning the use of animals in circuses, which were joined together and discussed by Congress.
In May 2008, we produced a further report, Science on Suffering, including scientific evidence on the effects of captivity and confinement.
Despite a successful start, the going was not easy. For the bill to become law it needed to be debated and approved in both the Agrarian and the Andean Peoples commissions; selected for priority by the Board of Spokespersons for debate in the Plenary; and finally handpicked by the President of Congress to be discussed on the day. There were many hurdles.
We lobbied every member of each Commission, with our briefings.
The bill was finally debated in March 2009 and approved as an amendment of the National Animal Protection Law. It then passed in its new form to the Andean Peoples Commission where it was again approved unanimously, in May 2009. The first two hurdles were behind us.
We now faced the challenge of getting the Board of Spokespersons to prioritize the bill. The ADI team stepped up the lobbying and met with 100 congress members, while also organising a series of events promoting a public petition in support of the bill.
More suffering exposed, celebrities speak out
In May 2010, we undertook another undercover investigation and the new evidence became the core of a new film titled Unnatural Acts. The film was launched in the Peruvian Congress, and the suffering exposed was so horrific that the event received widespread TV, radio and print coverage.
We also presented our petition of over 3,000 signatures to the President of the Congress. The Board listened and, just weeks later, prioritized the bill. Now all we needed was the President of the Congress to pick our bill for discussion on the day.
Several Peruvian celebrities – including musicians Julio Andrade, Miki Gonzalez, William Luna, Toxico, and Grammy award winning band Aterciopelado – came out publicly in support of our campaign. After watching a video featuring them speaking out, a number of Congress members personally wrote to the President of the Congress asking him to discuss the bill in the next sessions. A march was also held in the city in support of the bill.
However, the circuses weren’t going to give up without a fight. Shortly after the celebrities spoke out, the circuses started lobbying the Congress claiming that our investigation lacked validity. ADI responded with more video evidence and detailed briefings to counter the claims. At the same time, public pressure was mounting with events in support of the bill continuing around the capital.
Securing the ban
During the 2011 elections, we met the President of the Agrarian Commission where it was suggested that it might be wise to look at other legislative routes to get the ban approved.
After exploring several options, the Commission suggested adding an article on the use of animals in circuses to the Forestry and Wildlife Bill, soon to be heard in the Plenary. We recommended text for the amendment. The Bill covered only wildlife, so the hope of getting all animals, both wild and domestic (as we secured in Bolivia) was dashed. Nevertheless, a ban on all wild animals went through and this in itself was a huge victory.
The bill was fast tracked and approved by the Plenary of the Congress on 16 June and signed by the President in July.
ADI has now started working with the Ministry of Agriculture, drafting regulations for the implementation of the ban. We will be providing a draft text and carrying out a circus animal census to establish how many circus animals are in Peru.
Special thanks to the local groups who worked alongside us: Unidos por los Animales (UPA), Amazon Shelter, Perú Antitaurino, Amar, Conciencia Animal and Orca.
This victory required a huge commitment by ADI. Our field officers were undercover in South American circuses for almost two years before we even launched this long campaign.
Our work does not end here. We must ensure the ban is enforced – as we did in Bolivia – and we must maintain our campaigns in Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Ecuador where we are making progress.
This vital work in South America relies entirely on our U.S. and U.K. offices for support.
Key events on the road to ban....
2005 & 2006
ADI field officers are embedded in the South American circus industry, tracking them across borders, monitoring their every move.
April: In Lima ADI releases the shocking findings of the investigation. Huge publicity, intense lobbying, demonstrations and awareness drives follow. In October the first Bill to ban animal circuses is tabled.
An ADI press conference at Congress announces two Bills from the two main parties banning animal circuses. Our report ‘Animals in Circuses the Science on Suffering’ is released later in the year.
ADI releases videos and the Agrarian Commission combines and then approves the two Bills. The Andean Peoples’ Commission approves the Bill. ADI stages a photo exhibition at the Congress. Our inflatable elephant visits Congress.
Our ‘Unnatural Acts’ video is released with new investigation evidence. The Board of Spokespersons Prioritises the Bill. ADI’s ‘Cruelty Is Not Culture’ campaign is launched with Peruvian artists and celebrities backing a ban.
In June, a ban on wild animals in circuses is attached to another Bill on Forestry and Wildlife and approved by Congress.
July, President Alan Garcia signs the law.