Greece bans animal circuses

Following pressure from Animal Defenders International (ADI) and Greek Animal Welfare Fund (GAWF), Greece has implemented a law banning all animals from being used in circuses and similar businesses. Greece is the first European country to ban all animals from circus and circus like performances, though Austria has banned all wild animals from these acts.

The inceptive aspect of the ban was ADI’s 1998 global release of “The Ugliest Show on Earth”, a report and video that cataloged the systematic cruelty found in circuses. Its release led to the first national bans pertaining to circus animals as well as bans in cities such as Thessaloniki, Greece. ADI went on to investigate Greek circuses and eventually teamed up with Greek Animal Welfare Fund to make the abolition of animal circuses a national campaign. Co funded by GAWF, ADI developed and financed a Greek “Stop Circus Suffering” package with a DVD and literature detailing the cruelty against circus animals. The included video, viewable on Youtube, exposes animals chained and confined to barren cages as well as trainers whipping, prodding, kicking, punching, and beating animals with pipes and baseball bats.

“One of the great circus myths is that these animals are trained by kindness and reward. But training takes place in secret. ADI has taken hidden video cameras into these training sessions and revealed animals being beaten, kicked, spat on, punched, and even having rocks hurled at them. Again and again, circus animals are shown that if they disobey the trainer, they will be punished. Even huge, powerful animals can be beaten into submission. For circus animals their world is one of confinement and frustration punctuated by violence. Even if animals are sick or injured, the show must go on and the circus keeps moving.” Vice President of Animal Defenders International, Tim Phillips, told

ADI and GAWF contacted animal protection groups across Greece asking for their support of the campaign. Over 50 groups allied with the cause even before its official 2006 launch. The campaign included press conferences and screenings of the campaign’s DVD in Crete, Thessaloniki, Athens and Halkidiki. The campaign led to bans in Kalamata, Serres, and Malia and by 2010 the government announced its consideration of a ban on animal circuses.

“Globally, the Greek ban is of great significance,” Phillips told, “because there is such a wave of feeling against the animals in circuses around the world – it seems there is almost universal revulsion amongst the public, wherever you are in the world, to confining, depriving and abusing animals simply for amusement.”

Bolivia was the first country to ban all animals from circus performances. In February 2011 ADI and Bolivia authorities shut down and rescued every animal from Bolivian circuses defying the law. Countries such as Austria, Singapore, Costa Rica, Israel, Sweden, and Peru have made similar bans on animal circuses.

Many animal rights activists are hopeful Greece’s new law will put pressure on neighboring countries to follow suit. It has been reported that Germany and the UK are moving toward similar bans.

Sydney Azari | 10 February 2012


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