The Catalan parliament on Wednesday approved legislation to ban the use of wild animals in circus and other public performance throughout the region.
Catalonia now joins the list of European jurisdictions and nations, including Belgium, Denmark, Portugal and Switzerland, that have already prohibited the use of wild animals in circuses.
The city of Barcelona had in 2003 already passed a similar law to exclude live animals from circus performances there. In 2010, the Catalan parliament banned bullfighting across the region.
Catalonia joins Belgium, Denmark, Portugal and Switzerland in banning circus animals
This latest prohibition was included as an amendment to the regional Animal Protection Law and states that circuses will no longer be able to use wild animals “in performances that would cause them suffering or turn them into an object of mockery or unnatural treatment.”
Oriol Amorós, the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) deputy who drew up the law, explained that there would be a two-year moratorium before the statute goes into effect to give entertainment businesses time to adapt to the new rules.
During this time, a panel of experts, including members from the circus industry and animal rights groups, will be created to study the use of wild animals in circuses and determine whether the use of any other species should be banned altogether on welfare grounds.
During the debate on the measures, Socialist Jordi Terrades said it was time to get used to “defending the different species of animals around us.”
Isabel Vallet, of the leftist pro-Catalan independence CUP party, said society needed “to eradicate all types of animal violence and cruelty.”
The conservative Popular Party (PP) and Ciutadans groupings voted against the measure. While Ciutadans said it was “in favor of the protection of animals,” deputy Matías Alonso criticized the way other parties had jumped on the bandwagon to push the measure through.
“Everyone has been put in the same group, in a way that verges on demagoguery, and now people in the circus have felt unnecessarily criminalized,” he said.
The city of Barcelona passed a similar law banning circus animals in 2003
PP deputy Rafael Luna said it was unfortunate that the law had “not been backed up by any type of scientific data.”
In its ongoing campaign to remove animals from circuses, rights group Peta has claimed that circuses get away with routine abuse because no government agency monitors training sessions.
“Undercover video footage of animal training sessions has shown that elephants are beaten with bull hooks and shocked with electric prods,” the group said in a report.