Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Animals in Traveling Circuses: The Science on Suffering: 4. Recommendations for action

Posted: 31 October 2008


Observational and scientific evidence makes it clear that the traveling circus is no place for animals and that these archaic shows should be prohibited. Legislation prohibiting the use of wild animals from travelling circuses has already been passed in several countries and at least four countries are currently considering bans, on wild and/or domestic animals such as horses and ponies. In addition, numerous city or regional/area bans have been passed by local municipalities and other bodies. Such measure have been popularly received by the public.

Thus, measure to protect circus animals/ban the use of animals in travelling circuses have been thoroughly legally tested.

Globally the actions of municipalities, and even individual landowners, have had a profound impact in moving the circus industry away from the use of animals to human-only circuses. But it is up to legislators to address this issue comprehensively and decisively.

Over 173 states are a parties to the Conference of States of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). A ban on the use of animals in circuses enables a streamlining of resources to prevent illegal animal trafficking under CITES, by reducing the need to issue CITES import permits and other CITES responsibilites for checking these travelling exhibitions. A ban on animal circuses ensures these can never be a route for illegal trafficking, and is also in line with welfare obligations implicit in the Convention.

Significantly, this is an industry that can survive without animals, with human-only circuses proving increasingly popular with the public around the world. This is a sector that can survive and flourish without the abuse and suffering of animals and the public health and safety issues. There are strong economic benefits from a move to human only circuses, which can maintain tradition, increase employment whilst eradicating animal suffering and relieving government of the burden and cost of dealing with public safety and welfare issues.

Appendix: Public Opinion

A nationwide ban on all wild animals in circuses is already in place in Austria. This example was recently followed by Hungary, which banned wild animals by government decree in September 2007.

A growing number of EU countries have also banned the use of certain species, including Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and the Czech Republic. Greece is currently considering legislation to ban the use of all animals in traveling circuses.

In the United Kingdom, the Government is currently discussing the introduction of a ban on the use of certain nondomesticated / wild species in traveling circuses. This results from opposition to animal circuses in towns and cities all over the U.K where over 200 local authorities have banned animal circuses. In a survey of 310 local authorities (town and county councils) ADI found:

  • 39% had banned all animal acts.
  • 17% had banned wild animal acts.
  • 22.5% continued to allow animal circuses.
  • 21.5% said circuses with animals did not visit their communities.

Several major European towns and cities have either banned all circus animal acts or wild animal acts, including Thessaloniki (Greece), Barcelona (Spain), Cork (Ireland) and Venice (Italy).

The European Commission made clear in December 2006 that such bans are feasible under EU rules and that animal welfare was an issue of great importance52. The trend is the same in non-EU countries, such as Croatia, where most major cities have bans.

In Latin America, Costa Rica has banned all wild animals in circuses. Nationwide bans on all animals in traveling circuses are under consideration in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia and Peru, where legislation is expected in the near future. The State of Rio de Janeiro and the cities of Buenos Aires (Argentina), Porto Alegre (Brazil), La Paz, Sucre, El Alto, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz and Tiquipalla (Bolivia) have implemented full bans on both wild and domesticated species, except La Paz, which has a ban on wild animals only.

In the Middle East and Asia, Israel, India and Singapore have banned wild animals in circuses. Parramatta (Sydney) in Australia and Wellington, New Zealand have local bans of wild animals in circuses.

Banning the use of animal acts from circuses has been tested politically in many countries. The idea has been successfully enforced and is popular with the public.

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