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Italy Bans Animal Acts In Circuses

The trend is gaining ground worldwide.

(Image: Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images PS

The word “circus” conjures many images: pie-throwing clowns, flying trapezes, cotton candy, lots and lots of leotards, and especially animals. The latter’s been crucial to the spectacle’s appeal since 1768, when Philip Astley’s equestrian trick-riding created the first modern circus. However, much has changed since the 18th century, and governments worldwide are clamping down on this aspect of the show. Most recently, on November 8, Italy’s parliament passed a ban on all animal acts in circuses.

Italy now joins a list of 40 other countries with national bans on circus animals, but it stands out. The country’s market is currently booming with over 100 circuses. This ministerial decree, to be enacted over the course of a year, will liberate more than 2000 animals. That includes not just wild animals, but even domestic ones like horses.

It’s a major victory for groups like Animal Defenders International, a group leading “the campaign to stop circus suffering.” ADI credits its undercover investigations into circus-sanctioned abuse for some nationwide bans, including Greece, Singapore, and Columbia. As for Italy, their president Jan Creamer addressed the Italian Senate in a workshop on the subject. Now, the group will support similar bans that the governments of Ireland, Wales, and Scotland will soon debate. They’re also holding a “week of action” from November 13 to 17 as the US prepares to debate the Traveling Exotic Animal & Public Safety Protection Act.

Part of a Trend

Many other countries have partial bans, and others still are considering them. England hasn’t debated an official act, but councils nationwide have banned circuses featuring wild animals from parks and districts. Legislation in big American cities like Los Angeles pushed the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus to stop using elephants. There’s one reason all this is even happening: public outcry at the abuse required to make wild animals do tricks. The trend seems clear: animal acts are going out of style.

So how can a big top show continue without them? Well, the contemporary circus movement already does. Circuses of this type extensively feature acrobats, dancers, trapeze artists, stunt artists, clowns … and few animals, if any. You probably know an example of a contemporary circus: Cirque du Soleil.

Lion tamers, Jumbo the elephant, and horn-playing seals may be staples of pop culture, but we can live without them. And really, we must.

Wanna see a really weird animal rights group? You know I’m talking about PETA. Here’s a story about their veganism campaign involving a human slaughterhouse.

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