Italian ministers have just voted on a bill to ban all animals in circuses and traveling shows – a landmark decision hailed by animal rights campaigners as a major victory. The European republic, which maintains one of the largest circus industries in the world, will now start a year-long process to release all captive lion, elephant, bear, monkey and zebra performers.
Italy is now the 42nd country to pass a national law prohibiting performing animals.
Jan Cramer, President of Animal Defenders International (ADI), has applauded the decision and is now urging the UK and US to "follow this example and end this cruelty." The American campaigner, who helped launch the Italian bill, claims circuses, "traveling from place to place, week after week, using temporary cages and pens", do not meet the needs of animals.
"Through [our] undercover investigations, we have shown the violence and abuse that is used to force these animals to obey and perform tricks."
Their research, which lifts the lid on the abuse which takes place behind the scenes, has led to similar bans in countries like Greece, Singapore, Costa Rica, Taiwan and Colombia.
In Bolivia and Peru, ADI has also completed enforcement operations with wildlife officials and police to track down all circuses in breach of the law – helping rescue over 200 animals.
Ireland also unveiled a similar bill to ban wild animals in circuses this week, citing overwhelming public opposition as the reason behind it. In a press release, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed said:
"The use of wild animals for entertainment purposes in circuses can no longer be permitted. This is the general view of the public at large and a progressive move, reflective of our commitment to animal welfare."
Professor Stephen Harris from Bristol University claims all "available scientific evidence" shows captive wild mammals in circuses "do not achieve their optimal welfare requirements." His report states that "life for wild animals in traveling circuses… does not appear to constitute either a 'good life' – or a 'life worth living.'"
As PETA explains, these animals can often become "chronically frustrated, stressed, and depressed from a lifetime of being denied the opportunity to do anything that’s natural and important to them."