Starting next year, there will be no more dancing bears, lion tamers, or acrobats atop elephants under the big tops at any of Italy’s 100 circuses.

That’s because the Italian parliament announced yesterday that it will ban the use of circus animals within a year. The new law came in response to a campaign by animal rights activists who say the performing beasts are mistreated and exploited.

“Traveling from place to place, week after week, using temporary collapsible cages and pens, circuses simply cannot provide for the needs of the animals,” said Animal Defenders International President Jan Creamer in a statement.

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At a workshop for Italian lawmakers, Creamer said her organization’s undercover investigations — featured in a documentary called Lion Ark — "have shown the violence and abuse that is used to force these animals to obey and perform tricks."

According to ADI, Italy is joining 40 other countries — including Mexico, Greece and Singapore — that have already passed laws prohibiting circuses from using animals.

Just last month, India banned the use of circus animals and deregistered circuses that use animals in their performances under the country’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, after an investigation found that “animals were being maintained in circuses in cruel conditions and were tortured to extract performances,” the director of India's Central Zoo Authority said.

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Animal rights activists are now turning their attention to a bill known as the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act, which is under consideration by the US Congress. The bill would ban the use of “exotic or wild animals” in performances such as circus acts.

The bill was introduced in March and has yet to be considered by a committee, but campaigners in the US are already achieving big wins for four-legged performers.

In 2016, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus retired its famous elephants after investigations revealed cruelties inflicted upon the pachyderms during training and several local governments have passed “anti-circus” and “anti-elephant” laws.

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United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 15, Life on Land, includes a commitment to preventing animal trafficking and protecting biodiversity.

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Lion and Tigers and Bears, No More! — Italy Just Banned the Use of Circus Animals

By David Brand