Italy Bans Animals in Circuses

This story is part of Treehugger's news archive. Learn more about our news archiving process or read our latest news.
CC BY 2.0. Tim Evanson -- A tiger walks a tightrope at the Royal Hanneford Circus in New York state, 2013

No more elephant or lion acts. Those are now a thing of the past.

Italy has just announced that it will ban all animals in circuses and traveling shows. For a country that has an estimated 100 circuses, and roughly 2,000 animals working for them, this news represents a major accomplishment in the fight for animal rights.

The Italian Parliament signed the final piece of legislation on 8 November 2017, and now has one year to set out rules for implementing the ban.

This decision makes Italy the 41st country to ban animals in circuses -- something that countries as diverse as Romania, Mexico, Greece, Singapore, Costa Rica, Taiwan, Iran, and Colombia have already done -- while the United States and United Kingdom continue to use animals.

Jan Creamer, president of Animal Defenders International (ADI), is very happy about the ban:

"Travelling from place to place, week after week, using temporary collapsible cages and pens, circuses simply cannot provide for the needs of the animals. Through ADI’s undercover investigations we have shown the violence and abuse that is used to force these animals to obey and perform tricks."

The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) agrees, having concluded that “there is by no means the possibility that [wild mammals'] physiological, mental and social requirements can adequately be met [in traveling circuses].”

bathing a lion

Double-M (via Wisconsin Historical Images) -- 'How to give a lion a bath'/CC BY 2.0

In an article for The Guardian in 2013, responding to a statement by some British MPs that animals are appropriate in circuses, writer Karl Mathiesen made an argument that's still as relevant as ever: Why exploit animals if you can hire consenting humans in need of employment? He wrote:

"Sometimes you get caught on the wrong side of history ploughing an archaic furrow and then it's time to innovate or relocate. Plenty of circuses now exist animal-free. Couldn't the government spend the money set aside for regulating these operators on helping them to hire strikingly talented, well-remunerated humans to entertain crowds and reinvigorate the spectacle?"

Saying that animals should be kept in circuses for the purpose of educating children is absurd; there's little wonder or respect in witnessing tricks meant to make one laugh. Nor it is necessary, as camera technology has evolved to the point where watching Planet Earth is a far better teacher about the true habits of wild animals than watching them in a ring.

Italy's decision is indicative of the greater trend away from animals in circuses, and that is something to be celebrated.