The Malta Independent 29 March 2023, Wednesday
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Belgium set to prohibit wild animals in circuses

Malta Independent Tuesday, 16 July 2013, 09:28 Last update: about 10 years ago

Eurogroup for Animals, the leading voice for animal welfare at European Union level, said the new Belgian law, which now awaits parliamentary approval, will prohibit any use of wild animals in circuses.

The Belgian animal rights organisation, GAIA, is highly satisfied with this outcome, and described it as an important step forward for animal welfare.

Several investigations it carried out have shown that circuses cannot in any way guarantee the well-being of their wild animals, whose needs are highly specific. The main problems evoked are constant movement and transport, and restricted living quarters. In fact, wild animals in circuses often exhibit abnormal behaviour, a proven indicator of psychological stress and discomfort.

Between 1995 and 2002, GAIA conducted investigations in eighteen circuses and in January 2003, it revealed for the first time the poor living conditions of wild animals used in circuses. At that time, there was no law on circus animals. Their deplorable conditions were made obvious upon the publication of GAIA’s report ‘Animal suffering is no fun.’

Over the past years, the organisation repeatedly called for a ban to be adopted, even after government’s decision in 2005 to apply the same standards to circus animals as those for animals in zoos. This law came into effect in 2012, but GAIA noted on several occasions that these minimum standards were not (or could not) be respected. 

Speaking to The Malta Independent, Myriam Kirmond, on behalf of the Animal Rights Coalition, which brings together 22 animal local welfare NGOs, said they are very pleased with the outcome in Belgium and are asking for the same things to happen in Malta.

“It is about time Malta joins other progressive countries including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden, among several others outside Europe,” she said.

She highlighted that animal circuses are a thing of the past because wild animals in circuses spend most of their time chained or in cages. Transportation makes living conditions very difficult for the animals and some circuses, including ones which have come to Malta, were found guilty of animal cruelty. Moreover, animals in circuses often exhibit behaviour showing they are in distress.

“Humans evolve and practices deemed ordinary in the past have been banned throughout the years,” she said.

Ms Kirmond highlighted the need to educate children that they must respect animals and that they are not a means of entertainment, adding that animals must live and be observed in the right environments. This also applies to domestic animals.

Animal activist Moira Delia said she is in favour of the step to ban animal circuses which is finally being taken seriously.

She commended the Animal Welfare Directorate and the Parliamentary Secretariat for Animal Rights, for taking the step to launch a consultation process on circus animals and hopes Malta joins the growing list of countries in their decision to ban animal circuses, in the near future.

“Animal circuses are not educational,” she insisted, while noting that their statements are against animal cruelty not circuses or their promoters.

Referring to Cirque du Soleil – the famous dramatic company which brings to audiences a mix of circus arts and street entertainment, she highlighted it is about time we move forward and bring this or similar companies in Malta.

Any organisations or individuals interested in expressing their views on the contentious issue of animal circuses – which has led, in recent years, to protests whenever circuses using animals are brought over – may do so by completing a consultation form which can be downloaded off the parliamentary secretariat’s website, or collected at its office in Casa Leone, St Joseph High Street, Santa Venera, by Friday at noon.

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