A new era for animal welfare in France
As well as the measures protecting wild animals, the new law will raise the maximum penalty for mistreating animals to five years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros and will tighten restrictions on the sale of pets.
In addition, France’s three marine aquariums will no longer be able to breed or bring in new dolphins or orcas. Starting immediately, no new marine aquariums can be built on French soil.
The government is also considering creating a sanctuary for the animals currently in captivity.
France’s Ecology Minister Barbara Pompili has said that the government will offer an 8m euro package to help circuses and marine parks adapt to the new measures.
“We are asking [circuses] to reinvent themselves,” she said. “That transition will be spread over several years because it will change the lives of many people.”
Circus owners in France
The 120 circus owners in France are likely to protest the new restrictions and have warned that some animals might end up abandoned.
Honorary president of the World Circus Federation Princess Stéphanie of Monaco has shunned the decision.
“In the circus, we make people happy, we’re not hurting anyone, but we get picked on. Whereas hunting with hounds, for example, is cruel to deer, horses and dogs,” she commented.
But animal rights groups insist that captive animals suffer in the entertainment industry. According to PETA, circus animals don’t perform tricks “because they want to,” but because “they’re afraid of what will happen if they don’t.”
Circuses keep animals “imprisoned in cramped, filthy cages, in which they eat, drink, sleep, defecate, and urinate—all in the same place,” PETA says.
The charity adds that animals are also subject to whippings, beatings, electric shocks, and weather extremes that don’t suit their species.
Polls have shown that a vast majority of French people support the ban on wild circus animals, and dozens of cities and towns around the country already bar these practices.
Public opinion in Europe has moved decisively against the once popular form of family entertainment following revelations about mistreatment of circus animals and campaigning from rights groups.
Several events in France in recent years have added momentum for the ban, including the death of a sickly performing bear called Mischa and the shooting of an escaped tiger in Paris.