Published on: Amended:
French lawmakers debated on Tuesday an animal welfare bill that would ban the use of wild animals in traveling circuses and the keeping of dolphins and whales in captivity in marine parks, amid ‘other restrictions.
Circus workers demonstrated against the bill in front of the National Assembly, claiming that the measure would lead to the disappearance of circuses and jobs, if it becomes law.
“It’s death for circuses,” Royal Circus director William Kerwich told The Associated Press.
The bill, which also bans the use of wild animals in television shows, nightclubs and private parties, provides for a transition period of five to seven years depending on location.
The ban on wild animals would not apply to permanent exhibits or zoos.
Another provision of the law aims to close mink farms within the next five years. The bill would also require new pet owners to obtain certificates ensuring they have the specific knowledge needed to care for their animals.
He would toughen the penalty for committing animal abuse resulting in the death of pets up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 45,000 euros ($ 54,750.)
Protesting circus workers said French law is already strict enough to ensure the welfare of animals appearing in their shows.
Kerwich, the director of the Royal Circus, said he was worried about what would happen to some 800 animals belonging to French circuses.
“They are alive, we will not be able to reintroduce them into the wild and we will not be able to keep them. Who will pay? ” He asked. “We don’t want to abandon them.
Kerwich said around 14 million spectators attend traditional circuses featuring animals in France while a million attend circuses with only human acts.
Frédéric Edelstein, lion trainer for the Pinder circus, pleaded for “an art that is part of the culture of our country”.
“A trainer does not harm an animal, he seeks complicity, respect between humans and animals,” said Edelstein. “I have 12 beautiful white lions. They love me … There is no way for me to let my animals go.”
France will “gradually” ban wild animals in traveling circuses
Animal rights activists also held a rally near the National Assembly on Tuesday, saying they believed the proposed law did not go far enough.
“There is nothing about the hunt. There is nothing on intensive agriculture… We are therefore here to demand that these gaps be filled, ”declared Muriel Fusi, representative of the Animalist Party in Paris.
One Voice, an animal rights organization, called the bill a “big step in the right direction,” but said it wanted the ban on wild animals to be extended to non-walking circuses and shows.
“Maybe we won’t see elephants, lions and hippos on the roads anymore, but a new category of sedentary circuses will be allowed to flourish,” he said in a statement.
A vote on the bill is due to take place on Friday. Lawmakers from the party of French President Emmanuel Macron, in the majority in the National Assembly, support the measure. After the votes of the lower house, the bill will go to the Senate.
Most European countries have partially or totally banned the use of wild animals in circuses. In recent years, some large circuses in France have announced that they are voluntarily ending such acts.
An amusement park north of Paris announced Monday the closure of its dolphin show. Parc Asterix has indicated that its eight dolphins will be transferred within two months to other aquariums in Europe because they could not be reintroduced into their natural environment.