The day before the first ever debate by the European Parliament on the need for an EU circus ban for the use of wild animals, AAP signed a contract with the Portuguese authorities to take most of the remaining wild animals from circuses to dedicated rescue centers. AAP offered a solution for all remaining wild animals, as Portugal decided earlier to ban them from circuses by 2024. Most circuses agreed, surrendering their lion, two tigers, three American alligators, three boas, and four pythons. This agreement brings the cruel and outdated practice of wild animals participating in circus shows closer to an end.
The agreement to execute the rescue plan was signed during the Conferência Internacional em Bem-estar Animal in Lisbon. João José Loureiro, Director of the Department of Nature and Biodiversity Conservation at the ICNF, represented the Portuguese authorities with AAP CEO David van Gennep present. Van Gennep: “João and I have known each other for many years. Being able to partner up and agree on a solution to end the exploitation of wild animals in Portuguese circuses is a huge and important milestone. Both for animal welfare in Portugal as for AAP and our partners, working on our mission to end the suffering of exotic animals in Europe. Today, we make sure these wild animals will no longer be used in circuses. We urge the EU to take responsibility to end the show for all the others, still forced to perform throughout Europe and posing safety risks for their surroundings.”
Van Gennep also talked to Nuno Banza, President of the Institute of Nature Conservation and Forests, who told him: “Citizens want a European solution to the issue of circus animals. Is the Portuguese government in favor of an EU ban to the use of wild animals in circuses? Obviously. This is what citizens want. And this doesn’t have to mean anything bad for circuses. We can have a win-win situation.”
Following the many regional and national bans within the EU, a circus ban could end the suffering of circus animals completely and terminate the unnecessary risks of transports in between EU-member states still accepting circuses to use wild animals. Since 1997, 278 safety incidents were reported involving 889 circus animals.
Thanks to 1 million citizens demanding action for wild animals in circuses, the European Parliament discussed the topic for the very first time. The question for the European Commission was if they intend to introduce a ban on the use of wild circus animals in the EU. This in order to ensure that the exposure to the risks of the illegal wildlife trade and risks to public health and security are uniformly mitigated across the Member States. And if they intend to assist with the enforcement of national restrictions for the majority of Member States that already apply them.
The representative of the Commission clearly stated that it’s an ethical issue for which only Member States have competency. Even if the welfare of wild animals used in circuses raises concern, it’s only on the European countries themselves to act. Hence he invited them to follow the ones which have already implemented bans. The European Commission’s position is not committal and unfortunately in sharp opposition to the EP’s demand for action. However, the debate showed a groundswell of political support to end the suffering of wild animals in entertainment, and a recognition for the public and civil society demands.
What about the animals?
As for the Purtuguese circus animals: the three big cats will be taken to our Spanish rescue center in Villena, where a specialized big cat center is located. The reptiles will be divided over the Auffangstation für Reptilien München in Germany, the FIEB Foundation and Karpin Abentura, both in Spain. AAP will arrange the necessary paperwork to get the animals out of the circuses and will coordinate the animal transfers. The transport of the first reptiles (three alligators and a Boa) was scheduled for Friday 17th already.