Amid ongoing concerns of animal cruelty, Paris last week outlawed the use of wild animals in circuses in the city. France, meanwhile, is still considering enforcing a nation-wide ban on the use of wild animals to perform under the big top. According to proposals that have been set in motion and will be enacted from 2020, operating permits within the city of Paris will be withheld from circuses that continue to use wild animals in violation of the ban.
Why has Paris banned wild animals from circuses?
The debate concerning animal rights, animals being subjected to cruelty and being forced to live and perform in poor conditions has been a long-standing one. Although the numbers of wild animals being forced to perform in circuses around the world has dramatically reduced, especially over the past two decades, wild animals continue to be used in circuses in some countries. The types of wild animals in circuses, including those in Europe, vary, but the most commonly seen are tigers, elephants, lions, hippopotamuses, zebras, bears, snakes and birds like parrots and macaques.
Most of these animals are kept in cages that are too small for their size and in deplorable, filthy conditions. The ill-treatment and physical abuse that animals are subjected to in circuses is also common knowledge, especially the circumstances in which they are forced to perform circus acts that are unnatural to them. Elephants, for instance, are forced to stand for prolonged periods on only their hind legs or on one single leg on a stage prop, despite their large bodies, forcing their entire weight on one limb or two limbs. Loud music inside the big top, loud microphones and loud cheers and noise from the audience also cause added distress to the animals. If animals refuse to perform, circus owners and animal handlers withhold food and subject the creatures to cruelty in a bid to exert control over the creatures. Over the years, these performances under extreme physical and psychological duress lead to prolonged physical and psychological health issues for these animals that physiologically cannot perform circus acts. In most cases, wild animals are also not evolved for the kind of domestication that circuses put them through. Due to these reasons, many countries around the world have outlawed the forcing of wild animals to perform in circuses.
When did Paris decide to ban wild animals from circuses?
In recognition of the distress and cruelty that circus acts put wild animals through, Paris announced a plan in December 2017 to ban wild animals from circuses that would perform in the French capital. This ban that was put into effect last week is a product of the proposal in 2017.
According to a report by the AFP, 65 municipalities in the country have already banned wild animals from circuses, while France is still considering the enforcement of a nation-wide ban. In September 2019, France’s Environment Ministry banned a pair of bair-baiters from forcing a bear in their ownership to perform in private and public shows after complaints by animal rights groups that the owners were forcing the sick bear to perform. Although it was rescued and given two months of veterinary care, the bear named Mischa died last week at the animal refuge center where it was recovering, after years of abuse at the hands of the bear-baiters.
What is France’s stance on wild animals in captivity?
Despite mulling a nation-wide ban on circus animals, in May 2017, the French government banned captive breeding of dolphins and killer whales. According to an AFP report, in April this year, France launched an initiative to look into the well-being of animals, zoos and dolphinariums.
The AFP cited a poll conducted last month by Opinion Way, according to which “about two-thirds of French people object to the use of wild animals in circuses, which only about 10 per cent have visited in recent years.” Around the world, many circus owners themselves have resisted the ban on wild animals because of the belief that wild animals are a draw for audiences and a money generator. For now, some of France’s biggest circuses are also party to those resisting the ban in the country. The AFP reported that the Bouglione group, for instance, one of France’s biggest circuses, believes it can weather the ban on wild animals because it owns the property where it hosts the Cirque d’Hiver in Paris. The Bouglione is a unique case because most other circuses operate on public property, making them at the mercy of Paris city government officials who will not renew their circus licenses unless the companies comply with the ban.
Which other countries have banned wild animals in circuses?
According to data by the Animal Defenders International (ADI), an animal rights group that monitors the use of animals for human entertainment, most European countries have nationwide bans on wild animals in circuses or partial bans and restrictions. According to the ADI, France, Germany, Spain, the UK, the US, Canada, Argentina, Brazil & Australia are the nations that presently have only local bans in force in certain districts or municipalities and are lacking nationwide bans on the use of wild animals in circuses performing in their territories.
What is India’s stance on wild animals in circuses?
Wild animals have been used in circuses across India for decades, but in November last year, the central government issued draft rules proposing a ban on the use of all animals in circuses. Under section 38 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (59 of 1960), India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change proposed the ‘Performing Animals (Registration) (Amendment) Rules, 2018’ and issued a “prohibition on exhibiting and training of animals for specified performances.” The draft rules added that under these proposed provisions, “no animals shall be used for any performances or exhibition at any circus or mobile entertainment facility.”
As of 2019, there are no recent status updates by the Indian government regarding the proposal of draft rules. In 2016, the Central Zoo Authority cancelled recognition it had granted to 21 circuses across the country following reports of rampant abuse of animals. This means circuses with cancelled recognition are not permitted to use wild animals like elephants in their shows without permission and amendment of these orders of the Central Zoo Authority, a national government body that oversees the conditions of animals used in circuses and entertainment and zoos in India. The Central Zoo Authority has also not released reports regarding whether it had restored the cancelled recognition for any or all 21 circuses between 2016 and 2019.