New law spells the end of animals in circuses.jpg

New law spells the end of animals in circuses


Circuses in Portugal will soon have to do without animals after a new law has been enforced to stop the importation of wild animals into the country by the government.

Wild animals such as lions, tigers, monkeys and elephants, commonly used in circuses, have been banned from being imported.

The new law, Portaria nº 1226/2009, is based on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), signed in Washington on December 9, 1996, which “prohibits or conditions the detention or exploitation of determined live specimens for reasons other than the conservation of these species”.

The decision to introduce the law in Portugal means that circuses using wild animals could soon have their days numbered.

The new law, which came into force on Tuesday, prohibits the purchase of thousands of wild animals and prohibits the reproduction of existing animals outside of licensed institutions such as zoos.

Rita Silva, the president of ANIMAL, an animal protection association in Portugal, told the Algarve Resident: “With immediate effect, many wild animals cannot be imported to or bred in Portugal.”

Existing animals must also be registered with the authorities – the Instituto de Conservação da Natureza e da Biodiversidade (ICNB) – within 90 days or else the owners will face heavy fines.

She added: “It is a very good first step as once the existing circus animals die, circuses will become animal free.

“Now circuses cannot exploit animals having been too lazy to work on their human acts.”

Rita Silva said there had already been complaints from the circuses and she is expecting repercussions, such as the announcement on Wednesday that the European Circus Association was going to sue the Portuguese government for enforcing the new law.

Victor Hugo Cardinali of Cardinali Circuses said: “This law has not been applied in any other country in Europe. We are part of the European Circus Association and we will fight against it.”

Miguel Chen, who runs the Chen Circuses, told national newspaper Correio da Manhã,: “Whoever designed this law forgot to request the introduction of condoms for tigers!”

The use of certain wild animals in travelling circuses is already banned in countries like the United Kingdom under the Animal Welfare Bill. However, the ban only applies to travelling circuses and not static ones.

In Portugal, the new law also mentions the words ‘dangerous’ and ‘poisonous’, which would also have implications for pet shops selling snakes and spiders and other creatures.

zoos unaffected

Under the new law, all species of primates, felines (other than domestic cats), bears, otters, seals, sea lions, dolphins, killer whales, hippopotami, crocodiles and marine turtles are on the list, as are some species of birds like ostriches, emus, penguins and eagles.

Marine adventure theme parks such as Zoomarine in Albufeira, which regularly uses dolphins and sea lions in family entertainment shows, feel certain that the new law will not affect them.

Élio Vicente, a biologist at Zoomarine, told the Algarve Resident: “We shall not be affected by the new law as we only use animals for educational purposes.”

Attractions such as zoos where animals are not used for entertainment but are kept in confinement will not be affected.

Paulo Figueiras from Lagos Zoo said: “This new law has nothing to do with zoos. Here we only preserve animals and do not use them for entertainment purposes.”

The Ministry of the Environment justifies the law “on the grounds of the need to conserve and protect these species” as well as to “guarantee the safety, wellbeing and comfort of citizens with regards to the animals’ actual or potential danger that is inherent in those species.”

Do you have a view on this subject? Email Editor Inês Lopes at [email protected]