Bear in a Circus

FOUR PAWS calls upon EU Commission for a ban of wild animals in circuses

Opinion poll shows majority of Europeans are against animal suffering in entertainment


Brussels, 3 March 2021 – In light of today’s World Wildlife Day, global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS, together with Eurogroup for Animals, is calling for an EU-wide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses within the newly launched, joint “Stop Circus Suffering” campaign. An aligned ban on wild animals in circuses across the entirety of the EU is the only solution to mitigate the gaps in cross-border movement that are still possible under national bans, and that are often exploited at the expense of the animals welfare.  A new opinion poll conducted in several EU countries confirms that 68 percent of Europeans share this sentiment.

23 out of 27 Member States have already adopted national legislation restricting the use of either all, or exclusively wild, animals in circuses, reflecting the public’s position on ethical and animal welfare grounds. In some countries, like Greece and Malta, no animals at all are allowed to perform in the circus ring. However, France, Germany, Italy and Spain do not have any national restrictions, and the Czech Republic, Finland and Hungary have only adopted restrictions on the use of some species of wild animals. There is widespread acknowledgement by veterinarians, animal behaviour experts and governments worldwide that the constant travelling and temporary accommodation will always compromise the wellbeing of animals in circuses. “In circuses animals spend their life in transport wagons and small temporary enclosures. Under these conditions species like elephants, giraffes, tigers or lions can’t express their natural behaviours that are vital for their wellbeing. Moreover, human handling and forced performances of unnatural behaviours are daily routines in the circus environment and detrimental for wild animal welfare,“ says Thomas Pietsch, wild animal expert at FOUR PAWS.

Majority of European citizens against animal suffering in circuses

Eurogroup for Animals commissioned an opinion poll to Savanta ComRes in February 2021, who interviewed citizens from countries with inadequate or no wild animal regulations like Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Spain. The results clearly show that the time has come for this cruel entertainment to end within the EU:

  • The use of wild animals in circuses is cruel and wild animals should not be used for public entertainment - 68% agree
  • The European Union should ban the use of all wild animals in circuses - 62% agree
  • The European Union should guarantee that cruel uses of animals are not allowed - 83% agree
  • Circuses that still use wild animals must reinvent themselves by developing high quality shows with human performers - 69% agree
  • Circuses showing wild animals is educational - 20% agree

“Only an EU wide ban can guarantee the end of this outdated entertainment and provide a coherent and effective solution to the physical and emotional suffering of wild animals in circuses. The Commission should take the wishes of EU citizens very seriously and use their powers to finally end this unnecessary suffering while confirming the EU as the international leader for animal welfare,” comments Reineke Hameleers, CEO, Eurogroup for Animals.

Nearly one million citizens have already signed an international petition calling for an EU-wide ban of the use of wild animals in circuses The “Stop Circus Suffering” campaign will keep backing the strong public support and move a step further by bringing this request at the institutions level.

Read the EfA Circus Report here

Find out more about FOUR PAWS’ work on wild animals in circuses here

Morgane Speeckaert

Morgane Speeckaert

EU Communications Coordinator

+39 331 365 4110

Rue Ducale 29, 1000 Brussels

FOUR PAWS - Animal Welfare ASBL

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. FOUR PAWS’ sustainable campaigns and projects focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats, orangutans and elephants – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in twelve countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. 

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