Visualeyed - Society - How to avoid animals’ exploitation
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How to avoid animals’ exploitation

Over the years, concern about the use of wild animals for entertainment in circuses has increased. This has led to growing demands from the public to end this practice and thus national legislation in EU member states was born.

Across states, laws have been enacted that include requirements or restrictions regarding the use of wild animals in circuses. The reason for the implementing this ban is mainly animal welfare and protection.

There are not the same rules in all EU nations. Some states have enacted laws banning the use of all types of animals and others do not even have laws to protect them:

  • Nations banning all types of animals: Cyprus, Greece and Malta.
  • Nations banning wild animals: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland.
  • Regional bans on wild animals: Spain, United Kingdom.
  • Restrictions on the use of animals in circuses: Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Poland.
  • No restrictions on the use of animals in circuses: France, Germany, Italy.

Some EU Member States are currently in the process of adopting legislative proposals banning the use of all or exclusively wild animals, and these are expected to come into effect in the near future.

As we can see in the graphic, the two EU nations with the highest number of circuses are Germany and Italy.

In Germany, there are more than 900 wild animals distributed in more than 330 officially registered circuses; in Italy, there are more than 2,000 wild and domestic animals in about 100 circuses.

Data on the number of circuses using wild animals was also collected in each EU Member State, recording a total of 263 facilities.

Surely, the use of animals in circuses is a big problem for their welfare but it is also a human issue. Wild animals, forced to play in a circus without being free in their natural habitat, can be very dangerous to people. Animals can be unpredictable and this could be a risk for public safety and security. The term “wild animals” includes those species of animals who still exist in a wild state, in their country of origin. This also means that behavior, life cycle and physiology remain unaltered even though their living conditions can be under human control.

A research made thanks to “Euro group for animals” reports that recently the number of incidents involving animals in circuses has been increasing. In Europe, in the last 24 years, there have been 478 accidents involving 889 wild animals.

As we can see in the graphic, Germany had the highest number of incidents and involved the highest number of animals, 437. Then, we find France (140), Netherlands (67) and in fourth position Italy with 58 animals involved in circus incidents.

These numbers will increase in the future if legal restrictions will not become stricter. As we have already seen in the previous paragraphs, most EU Member States have legal restrictions, but circuses are allowed to travel wherever they want to use wild animals in the places where they perform; an additional problem, as animals can become even more irritated due to travel.

Around the world, circus workers have been killed or injured while working with animals and often tigers, lions and elephants have managed to escape from their cages.

This is a chain of negative events that leads nowhere. To stop this, a strict and coordinated law is needed. Between 1995 and 2019, 13 people were killed and 99 injured in circuses by 13 different species of wild animals, as reported by "Euro group for animals". Tigers, elephants and bears are usually the main protagonists of accidents. Camelidae, such as camels, dromedaries, llamas and alpacas, are also often involved in these tragic events.

As Graphic #4 shows, Germany and Italy have the largest presence of circuses, respectively 75 and 58, and - as we already know - a high number of incidents involving animals.

Interesting is what kind of animals are used in these countries. Germany has more that 40 zebras, about 200 camelids and many tigers, lions, and elephants.

Italy uses more than 160 tigers, 140 camels, dozens of bovid, llamas, 350 birds, 400 reptiles and incredibly 60 penguins - which are an endangered species.

As we have seen, Germany, France and Italy are the only three countries in the European Union that do not have laws banning the use of wild animals in circuses. Despite this, however, Germany and France have begun to look for alternative methods to the use of animals. This could be the future of circuses around the world, without caged animals.

- L'Écocirque, a French-based circus, shows off wild animals in a different way: using holograms. The show use projected images of a lion, an elephant and even some beluga whales along with its human performers, who are illuminated by a huge LED display and accompanied by a live orchestra playing rock music. A new wave of technology-rich, sustainability-conscious shows powered by renewable energy.

Also in Germany, holograms have arrived at the circus.

- The Roncalli circus has stopped using wild animals in its shows. The exhibits capture the awe and wonder of seeing majestic animals, but without the cruel and inhumane treatment that naturally comes from locking up wild animals. The hologram animals come to life thanks to 11 laser projectors positioned around the central ring. Together they create a 360-degree 3D show, which boasts giant holographic elephants, horses and even fish.

A way that could be followed, proving that the circus can and should continue to entertain people but without mistreating innocent animals.

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