The Stop Circus Suffering campaign celebrated the collection of one million signatories at an event in Brussels on Wednesday.
Animal welfare organisation Eurogroup for Animals and its members, along with InfoCircos who started the campaign, handed over the signatures to members of the European Parliament, Eleonora Evi (Greens/EFA) and Anja Hazekamp (GUE/NGL), who will now submit them to the European Commission.
Eighty-one organisations throughout the EU mobilised the public and collected over one million signatures, confirming what opinion polls and scientific opinion have been pointing out for a while: wild animals in circuses are destined to a life of physical abuse and mental torture.
A majority of EU 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. However, France, Germany, Italy and Spain don’t have any national restrictions and Czech Republic, Finland and Hungary only adopted restrictions on the use of some species of wild animals.
Currently, the EU only regulates health controls for the movement of circus animals, through a Commission Regulation (1739/2005) laying down animal health requirements for the movement of circus animals between member States.
Moreover, circuses are travelling entertainment services moving around Europe, and performing wild animals are transported across member states, where circuses pose severe public safety and animal health and welfare risks, as explained in a recent report.
“That’s why we call for an EU wide ban, since bans at the national level won’t prevent these movements with all the associated health and security risks and distresses for the animals”, explained the organisers (13 October).
A European Citizens Initiative (ECI) requires a minimum number of at least 1 million signatories in at least seven member states and, if accepted by the Commission, results in a legislative proposal.
Asked if they had not considered to collect the signatures in the framework of such an Initiative, the organisers replied that the call for a ban will be submitted to the Committee on Petitions (PETI) in the Parliament. Such a petition can result in a check on the way how European legislation is implemented and how the Commission is responding to citizens’ concerns.
“There’s a romantic notion of circuses as being magical places for children and I fully share this view as long as wild animals aren’t part of the attractions,” said MEP Eleonora Evi. “Wild animals in circuses greatly suffer from physical and social deprivations and their training is frequently based on punishment.”
Animals who are forced to live in unnatural conditions can react in ways which pose a risk to their tamers, she added.
“As an elected representative, my mission is to make sure this extraordinary public mobilisation of EU citizens against wild animals in circuses is translated into political achievement. The European Commission has the responsibility to listen to the citizens and put an end to this outdated and unacceptable practice.”
The Brussels Times