Using wild animals as part of circus acts no longer acceptable
An ethical question for you: 'Should wild animals be trained to perform unnatural acts for our entertainment?'
The question has long been an issue regarding circus animals. Elephants twirling hula hoops with their trunks may be great fun for a family day out but is it right for us to take animals from the wild, train them to do tricks, confine them in a trailer and cart them around the countryside to provide entertainment for children?
Considering all the excellent wildlife documentaries on television showing the details of the lives of tigers in Asia, is there really a need to have a live tiger on show at a circus to show us what kind of beast it is? Worse still, should we be training these magnificent cats to jump through burning hoops or ride on the backs of circus horses?
Is it sending out the right message about our relationship with the rest of the natural world and our stewardship thereof?
Four years ago, Dáil Éireann passed the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 enshrining the principles of five freedoms for animals: freedom from hunger and thirst, freedom from discomfort, freedom from pain, injury and disease, freedom to exhibit natural behaviour, and freedom from fear and distress.
All the major animal welfare NGOs and stakeholders welcomed that legislation and saw it as a major and progressive improvement in the area. Following on from that legislation, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D, recently signed the Circuses (Prohibition on Use of Wild Animals) Regulations 2017 banning the use of wild animals in circuses.
Commenting on the measure that will come into effect on 1 January 2018, Minister Creed said 'The use of wild animals for entertainment purposes in circuses can no longer be permitted. This is the general view of the public at large and a position I am happy to endorse. This is a progressive move, reflective of our commitment to animal welfare. I am of course allowing a modest lead-in period to allow for alternative arrangements to be made for the animals in question.'
The Minister acknowledged that circus owners and operators may have their regrets about this move, and that he appreciated their concern and care for the animals that have been part of their lives. However, the ability of a travelling circus to provide fully for all the needs of animals such as camels or tigers is no longer a tenable proposition.