Belgium prohibits wild animals in circuses

Belgian Federal Ministers today ratified the bill introduced by the Minister for Animal Welfare, Laurette Onkelinx, banning the use of wild animals in circuses.

By adopting this measure, Belgium follows the example already given by Austria and Great Britain.

Several investigations carried out by GAIA have shown that circuses cannot in any way guarantee the well-being of their wild animals, whose needs are highly specific.

The main problems evoked are constant movement and transport, and restricted living quarters. In fact, wild animals in circuses often exhibit abnormal behaviour, a proven indicator of psychological stress and discomfort.

Between 1995 and 2002, investigations were conducted in eighteen circuses.

In January 2003, the animal rights organisation revealed for the first time the poor living conditions of wild animals used in circuses.

At that time, there was no law on circus animals. Their conditions were made obvious upon the publication of GAIA’s report “Animal suffering is no fun.” During all these years, the organisation repeatedly called for a ban to be adopted, even after Government’s decision in 2005 to apply the same standards to circus animals as those for animals in zoos. This law came into effect in 2012, but GAIA noted on several occasions that these minimum standards were not (or could not) be respected.

As the animal welfare issues regarding wild animals in circuses came more and more to light, and pending a national ban, GAIA reiterated its demands to local authorities. Not without success: more than 130 Belgian cities and towns currently prohibit the presence of circuses with wild animals within their boundaries. Meanwhile, GAIA continued to call for a similar measure at the federal level.

“The government's decision is the culmination of a ten-year long struggle conducted by GAIA for a Belgian ban on circuses with wild animals. It is clear that the welfare of wild animals cannot be guaranteed in circuses; they have no place there. A ban is the only logical step. We are very pleased; it's yet another victory in the fight for animals,” says Ann De Greef, director of GAIA.