Portugal’s parliament is due to discuss a proposal by animal rights party PAN to forbid the use of all animals in circuses.
The proposal will be debated on December 21 and follows “many months of studies and meetings with national and international entities and NGOs”, says PAN.
As a source for the party told Expresso newspaper, several species are still used in circuses in Portugal such as “tigers, lions, hippopotamuses, camels, sharks, serpents, dogs, horses, ponies, donkeys and foxes”.
In 2009, the use of species such as “primates, bears, walruses, seals and penguins” in circuses was prohibited but PAN wants the ban to extend to all animals.
The party explains that circuses would be given time to adapt to the new law if the proposal was approved, and that circus trainers that freely gave their animals to the state would be entitled to compensation to find a new professional occupation.
PAN also says that a new set of penalties would be implemented to punish circuses that continued to use animals.
“The animals that are explored in circuses are mere shadows of those in the wild,” said PAN’s sole MP André Silva.
“Circus animals should be rescued and put in reserves where they can recover and preserve their integrity. And people should be encouraged to choose circuses where no animals are used,” he added.
In a statement sent out to the press, PAN says that “Portugal has the opportunity to take another step towards a more ethical relationship with animals” and join other countries with animal-free circuses such as Italy, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece, Malta and Cyprus.
It adds that several promoters have stopped backing events that use animals, and some venues such as the Lisbon and Porto coliseums prefer to host events that use humans as their stars.
The party also highlights a statement released in 2015 by the Eurogroup for Animals, an organisation based in Brussels which aims to improve the treatment of animals throughout the European Union.
The group explained that circus animals are often subjected to subpar conditions such as confinement in tiny spaces and are unable to express their “natural behaviours. They are also removed at early ages from their mothers and are subjected to rigorous training and frequent travelling”.
“Even popular holiday website TripAdvisor has stopped selling tickets to shows involving wild animals,” the party stresses.