Circus owners and workers have heavily criticised government proposals to ban wild animals from travelling circuses within five years. They say the plans were made without discussion and lack detail or funding to protect the animals’ future.
Ecology Minister Barbara Pompili also said France’s three dolphinariums would no longer be allowed to breed or bring in new whales and dolphins. Mink breeding is also to be banned.
Ms Pompili said “attitudes to wild animals had changed in our times” and the government planned a “progressive transformation to work with the professionals involved, as it would change the lives of many”.
She said there would be talks with circuses and dolphinariums on the future, deciding each case animal by animal, but William Kerwich, of the circus federation FFCACS, said Ms Pompili was not open to any discussion when they met her just days before her announcement.
Mr Kerwich, of Cirque Royal Kerwich at Avignon, said: “She did not want to listen. At least the previous minister Nicolas Hulot recognised the consequences, with the need for continuing care for the animals and help over jobs."
'We fear for the animals’ future'
People say sanctuaries will take them but these places do not have money to pay for food or the trained staff necessary."
“Circuses have 800 animals, with 450 wild animals, and each has specialist needs and diets, and we have 3,000 staff who work with them all the time. We have already seen a refuge where many animals were found dead and we would never wish that to happen. We hope MPs will look again when the draft law is voted in January but it’s not likely as they voted to allow bullfighting as well as hunting with hounds, which are activities where animals are killed, not cared for.”
The dolphinarium changes would see whales banned from 2022 and dolphins by 2027-30, but Pascal Picot, boss of Marineland park in Antibes in the south, said it was “unfair” and not possible in such a short time.
Even 10 years for the rehoming of 12 dolphins was difficult.
Christine Grandjean, of animal rights group C’est Assez, welcomed the move but said that while the dolphins could be found new homes – though it would take possibly 10 years – there would be problems rehoming Marineland’s four whales. They could not live at sea and would probably end up in a foreign dolphinarium. Ms Pompili said the opposite, suggesting there were no problems for the whales and dolphins.
She proposed setting up a national sanctuary to allow teaching and research. Alpes- Maritimes MP Loïc Dombreval, who heads Parliament’s animal safety group, said it would be better to have such a site than to send animals to foreign parks.
The minister’s plan for €8m aid to be shared between the 180 circuses and three dolphinariums was said by Mr Kerwich to be “nothing like what is needed, given staffing and food costs”. Mr Picot said the sum was “ridiculous”.
An MP is suggesting building robots in the shape of deer and boar to replace real animals in hunts. His amendment to the law on animal welfare has little chance of being voted through.