Bill seeks to ban wild animals from Czech circuses

Illustrative photo: Thesupermat, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported

An amendment on animal welfare drafted by the Czech Ministry of Agriculture could foreshadow the end of traditional circuses in the country. If it is approved by Parliament, circuses in the Czech Republic could no longer train or parade wild animals, such as tigers, lions or bears.

Illustrative photo: Thesupermat,  Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
The Czech Ministry of Agriculture has already banned the use of some wild animals in circuses, including seals, hippos, giraffes and newly born primates.

Under the new proposal put forward by the ministry, the ban would extend to include all wild animals, though circuses could still continue to parade their domesticated animals, such as horses, camels or llamas.

Living conditions of circus animals came to the forefront earlier this year when the Czech police cracked down on illegal trade in rare animals, including tigers. Among the members of the organised group was Ludvík Berousek, a relative of a well-known Czech circus family.

More than 14,000 people have recently signed a petition put together by Freedom of Animals, calling for the ban of wild animals in circuses. The NGO’s David Gardáš outlines the main reasons behind the initiative:

“There are a number of factors, including constant confinement, frequent travelling and the use of violent training methods. But we are against the use of animals in circuses as such.

“We have been campaigning since 2004, when we succeeded in banning the use of at least some wild animals and we are now waging against the use of all wild animals.

“But we would like to extend this campaign to all animals, because if wild animals are banned, circuses will obviously shift their focus to the domestic ones.”

At the moment, there are more than a dozen circuses operating in the Czech Republic and most of the owners have received the news with anger. Jiří Berousek, the owner of the famous Berousek circus, has threatened to let his animals loose on top of Wenceslas Square in Prague in protest against the ban.

Patrick Joo is the owner of the Jo-Joo circus:

Illustrative photo: Petr Vavrouška / Czech Radio
“We have had dozens of animal controls checking on our animals during the season. So what’s the point of banning them altogether?”

If MPs approve the proposal, a new problem will arise: who will look after all the retired lions, bears and elephants? David Gardaš again:

“It is important to say that the change won’t happen immediately. In the meantime, the animals could stay in their wintering grounds, but without being trained.

“There are also special breeding stations across Europe focusing on retired circus animals. The third option would be to earmark funds from the agriculture ministry’s budget to set up special centres for these animals.”

So far, 12 countries within the European Union have banned the use of wild animals in circuses. Some countries, such as Italy and Greece or the Netherlands, have extended the ban to all animals.