Photo Credits: © Animal Defenders International
On 16 July the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, shared the Welsh government new legislative programme for the coming twelve months. The Minister emphasized that the way animals are treated is an important reflection of society and that Wales is now ready to consider a bill to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses on welfare grounds.
Besides animal welfare arguments, there is an increasing concern that public entertainment with the use of wild animals does not have any educational value and, on the contrary, may have a negative impact on the public’s perception (especially children) of wild animals. This is coherent with two recent declarations that have been signed respectively by over 100 Italian psychologists and the Committee of Psychology of the Polish Academy of Sciences.
In addition, wild animals are unpredictable and can become aggressive and very dangerous to humans. The temporary nature of traveling circuses and the close proximity of dangerous animals to the public mean that these shows can never be entirely safe. Around the world, circus workers and members of the public, including children, have been killed and maimed by circus animals. Lions, tigers and elephants have all escaped. A recent study of Eurogroup for Animals shows that in total, 305 incidents involving 608 wild animals in circuses were recorded in the EU from 1995 to 2017, with an average of 15 incidents per year. 47% of incidents had consequences and 4% provoked the death of a person. These data are even more striking considering the limited number of circuses using wild animals in Europe and then the relatively small amount of animals potentially implicated.
The report’s findings highlight the necessity and urgency to phase out the use of wild animals in circuses in the EU. The steps already taken by 23 EU Member States are a move in the right direction, but it is not enough. Only 16 EU Member States have adopted a total ban on the use of wild animals.
In addition, circuses belonging to countries or municipalities that have adopted restrictions can simply move to places where wild animals are still allowed to perform. This unfortunately means that the 20 EU Member States with legal restrictions are still obliged to accept circuses using banned animals to move through their territory. Consequently, only a coordinated and full ban in all EU Member States can guarantee a coherent
and effective solution to the physical and emotional suffering of wild animals in circuses and to the related public security risks.
Given the cross-border nature of the issue and the related risks for the safety of both people and animals, Eurogroup for Animals believes that an EU ban is also legitimate, asked for by many EU citizens and perfectly justified. In the coming months, we will continue to work with our member organisations to reach this goal. There is no space for such outdated and cruel public entertainment in a society that truly cares about the welfare of the animals.