New evidence sparks concerns over public safety and wild animals in circuses


New evidence sparks concerns over public safety and wild animals in circuses

11 October 2017
Eurogroup for Animals
A report published today by Eurogroup for Animals presents new data on the shocking number of incidents involving the public and wild animals in circuses across the EU.

Over the past 22 years, 305 incidents involving 608 wild animals were recorded, which is on average 15 per year in the whole of the EU. [1] This data is even more striking if we consider the limited number of circuses using wild animals in Europe and then the relatively small amount of animals potentially implicated.

Eurogroup for Animals demonstrates the extent to which the use of wild animals in circuses is not only a problem for animal welfare, but also of public safety and security. Incidents involving animals in circuses occur regularly and frequently, causing varying degrees of public disorder or even the injury or the death of people. The temporary nature of traveling circuses and the close proximity of dangerous animals to the public mean that this type of public entertainment can never be entirely safe.

Director of Eurogroup for Animals Reineke Hameleers says, ‘‘Wild animals in circuses are bought and sold, prematurely separated from their mothers, confirmed or chained and forced to stand for hours and frequently travel in small train or truck compartments. They are required to perform behaviours never seen in their natural environments. This needs to stop’’.

Although 19 EU Member States have adopted restrictions on the use of either all, or exclusively wild animals, which is a step in the right direction, it is not enough. Only 11 EU Member States have adopted a total ban. In addition, circuses belonging to countries that have adopted restrictions can simply move to places where animals are still allowed to perform. This means that the 19 Member States with legal restrictions are still obliged to accept circuses using banned animals to move through their territory.

Ms Hameleers adds, ‘‘Given the cross-border nature of the issue and the related risks for the safety of both people and animals, we believe an EU ban is also legitimate and perfectly justified. Our report today aims to provide an overview of the situation across Europe with the necessary evidence to support an EU ban on the use of wild animals in circuses’’.

Besides animal welfare and public safety arguments, there is also the widely supported conviction that animals used for public entertainment does not have any educational value and, on the contrary, may have a negative impact on the public’s perception of wild animals. This is coherent with a recent declaration promoted by the psychologist. Ms. Annamaria Manzoni and signed by over 100 Italian psychologists.

Ms. Manzoni says ‘‘Our declaration contributes to the arguments on the necessity to phase out the use of animals in circuses. It states that attending this kind of performance with animals can hinder the normal development of empathy in children, soliciting joy and amusement responses while looking at animals behaving unnaturally, feeling discomfort and being published’’.

Now is the time to adopt a total EU wide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses to show future generations that these magnificent animals deserve respect and protection instead of suffering and humiliation. Only a coordinated and full EU ban 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.



Ilaria Di Silvestre, Programme Leader Wildlife, Eurogroup for Animals, Email:

Lucy Mathieson, Communications Officer, Eurogroup for Animals, Email:


[1] Click here to read & download the report