Unanimously applauded by Animal Welfare groups worldwide, Italy has become the 41st country to pass a national law prohibiting the use of animals in circus acts. The rules on how Italy will implement phasing out circus animal use will be established within one year by Ministerial decree.
There are currently estimated to be around 100 active circuses in Italy, of which an average of 2000 animals are forced to perform daily. These statistics make Italy “one of the biggest victories in the campaign to stop circus suffering,” according to the Animal Defenders International (ADI) Stop Circus Suffering campaign.
Jan Creamer, ADI President, said: “Travelling from place to place, week after week, using temporary collapsible cages and pens, circuses simply cannot provide for the needs of the animals”.
In recent years, other European countries such as Romania and the Netherlands have also banned the practice. Italy’s policy follows an Indian government policy, recently passing a similar bill prohibiting the use of all wild animals in circuses.
It is well documented that circus environments for animals are linked with multiple instances of animal cruelty. In a recent review of ‘The Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses’ , Professor Steven Harris, of Environmental Sciences at Bristol University concluded: "Captivity can induce very poor welfare on animals, but circuses in particular fail to provide some of the most basic social, spatial and feeding requirements of wild animals. The ability to execute many natural behaviors is severely reduced, with a concomitant reduction in welfare, health and reproduction".
In 2012, the Westminster Government motioned to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses across England. However, no indication has been given as to when the legislation, drafted and scrutinised back in 2013, will be implemented.
Wales and Scotland are also in talk of banning the use of animals in circuses.