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Environment

Portugal Announces Ban on Using Wild Animals in Circuses


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Circus animals are subjected to harsh living conditions and regular torture as part of their training regimens. Countries around the world are taking action to stop this abuse and you can join us in taking action on this issue here.

Portugal became the latest country to ban the use of wild animals in circuses on Wednesday, according to Agence France Presse.

The ban will take effect in 2024, at which point circus owners will have to hand over their wild animals to be placed in wildlife sanctuaries or other accommodations that more closely resemble natural habitats. Owners are encouraged to register their wild animals with the government ahead of time in order to receive financial aid.

"Wild animals have no place in the circus," Bianca Santos, vice president of the AZP local animal rights group, told AFP. “People should be able to enjoy themselves without animals suffering.”

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Portugal’s law covers more than 40 species, including tigers, elephants, and lions, and it comes after years of similar prohibitions in Europe and elsewhere.

A local industry group told AFP that the development will “contribute to the disappearance of the business."

More than 40 countries including Mexico, Greece, and Singapore have passed similar bans in recent years.

Read More: China Lifts Ban on Rhino Horns and Tiger Bones Even as Species Near Extinction

In 2017, Italy joined the club, affecting more than 100 circuses.

Major circus brands such as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus have been following suit by phasing out the use of certain animals, including elephants.

These efforts are driven primarily by grassroots campaigns following greater awareness of the living conditions of circus animals.

Many circus elephants, for example, are culled from the wild, and shipped to training facilities where they undergo rigorous training that involves “deprivation, pain, and negative reinforcement.”

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Their daily lives involve being tortured by bullhooks, electric cattle prods, ropes, and fireplace pokers to get them to contort into difficult positions and memorize difficult movements.

Other circus animals undergo similar training regimens and are subjected to lives of constant travel, while confined in metal cages.  

“Wild animals, even if they're born in captivity, retain all their natural instincts, which are completely thwarted when they are trapped in small cages and shuttled from city to city in trucks and trailers,” Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, told National Geographic.

Read More: Humanity Has Killed 83% of All Wild Mammals and Half of All Plants: Study

In recent years, measures have been taken to improve the lives of circus animals in Portugal, but animal rights groups have argued these incremental steps distract from the root problem of animals inherently being abused while kept in captivity for human entertainment

"Parliament has finally realised that larger cages, stricter rules and more controls were not the solution for the problems of these animals, who were reduced to mere puppets, deprived of their dignity," Portuguese lawmaker Andre Silva told AFP.

Animal rights groups applauded Portugal’s announcement on social media.