Sent: Friday, January 12, 2007 3:19 PM
To: European Vegetarian Union
Subject: Success: Ban on wild animals in circuses is kept upheld!
Success: Ban on wild animals in circuses is kept upheld!
EU-Commission closed infringement proceedings
Dear animal advocates,
As you all know the Commission started infringement proceedings against
Austria on 12th October 2005. The Commission complained that the Austrian
ban on wild animals in circuses is an unjustifiable restriction of the
freedom to provide services. They argued, that the aim to protect the life
and wellbeing of wild animals in circuses could be reached with less
restrictive measures than a complete ban. According to this they were of the
opinion, that the Austrian animal protection law has broken article 49 of
After intense international protests the Commission closed the infringement
proceedings on 12th December 2006. (Answer to the Parlamentary Question of
the Austrian MEP Jörg Leichtfried (E-4489/06), see:
). The Austrian ban on wild animals in circuses is
Thank you all for supporting our aims and our campaign! We really did it! A
big success with further implications:
1. Other European Countries like the Netherlands, Croatia and Hungary that
are working on a complete ban on wild animals in circuses do have more legal
certainty now. They can be sure that a complete ban is in harmony with EU
2. As the Commission closed the case they accepted, that a complete ban on
wild animals in circuses is a proper measure. They even accepted, that there
is no less restrictive measure to reach the aim of animal protection. This
is a very strong argument for a ban on wild animals in circuses on EU level.
It even seems that there is no argument left to get around a complete ban on
the long run.
Thank you for your support und good luck for your national campaigns!
You can find more information on the infringement proceedings (inclusively
the letter from the Commission and the statement of VGT in english) here:
A short summing-up of the campaign:
EU threat against Austrian circus animal ban thwarted!
After complaints by foreign circuses, the EU commission threatened to undo
the Austrian ban on wild animals. A concerted 7 month EU-wide campaign
persuaded the EU-commissioner otherwise.
From 1996, the Austrian animal rights group VGT had run a nationwide
campaign in Austria to persuade the public and the politicians that wild
animals in circuses must be banned. After a 2 year phase-out period, this
complete ban on all wild animals actually came into place on 1st January
2005. In Austria, a last circus using zebras, buffaloes and a fox was
stopped after a few months, while foreign circuses with wild animals were
not allowed into the country. A German circus, who was denied entrance,
complained to the EU-Commission. In a letter dated 12th October 2005, the
EU-Commissioner for the Internal Market, Charlie McCreevy, threatened the
Austrian government to withdraw the law, otherwise it will be challenged in
the European Courts. According to his opinion, the ban on wild animals was
going too far to achieve the aim of animal protection and hence unlawfully
restricted the Freedom of Provision of Services within the EU.
The EU-Commission demanded that the law at least be changed such that
foreign circuses with wild animals can freely enter Austria and do
performances here. According to the Freedom of Provision of Services, one of
the 4 basic Freedoms of the Internal Market, somebody, who legally provides
services in one country, must be able to do so in any other country in the
EU. According to this view it would be sufficient to have one EU member
state allowing wild animals in circuses, so that all circuses from this
country could go around the whole of the EU to do wild animal circus shows.
Albeit the EU Commission being a formidable opponent, VGT decided to rise to
the challenge. Professional expert evidence on EU law and on the suffering
of wild animals in circuses was attained and presented to the
EU-Commissioner and the Austrian government. On 20th December 2005, VGT
presented a website (www.vgt.at/circus.php) dedicated to this campaign in 30
different languages. With an automated service, visitors of the site could
read and send protest emails in their own language to their EU Commissioner
and to Commissioner McCreevy. At the beginning of April, more than 20.000
people had already used that opportunity. In addition, a large number of
individuals and groups right across the EU have sent their own letters of
complaint and expert statements in defence of the Austrian ban.
Internationally, animal welfare as much as animal rights is united behind
demanding a ban on wild animals in circuses. Even the Eurogroup for Animal
Welfare, an association of a large number of national animal welfare groups
in the EU, has issued a statement in favour of banning wild animals from
Also in the EU-Parliament, MEPs started to defend the Austrian ban. MEP Jörg
Leichtfried from the Austrian Social Democrats gave speech in the
EU-Parliament on 13th December 2005 in the presence of Commissioner McCreevy
saying that the protection of the welfare of animals must be paramount in
the EU. Hence with the ban on wild animals in circuses, Austria is leading
the way for animal protection and should be applauded not reprimanded.
Altogether there were 4 times official questions posed to the EU-Commission
during December 2005 and January 2006 by MEPs, in support of the Austrian
ban and against the steps taken by the Commission: 2 from Austria (23. 11.
and 6. 12. 2005), 1 from England (12. 1. 2006) and 1 from Holland (5. 1.
2006). In addition, a German MEP asked the EU-Council on 9. 12. 2005 similar
By Mid-January 2006, the Austrian government answered to the EU-Commission
that the ban is just and legal and that Austria will stand by it and take up
any challenge against it in the European Court. A vast amount of media
attention in favour of this position together with lobbying of the Austrian
Parliament has helped the government coming to this decision. In the letter
it is argued that no less than a ban is necessary to protect wild animals
from suffering and that this goal is more important than the principle of
free provision of services.
On 25th January 2006, Green Party MPs brought a bill to a vote in the
Austrian Parliament which demands of the government to support the ban by
all means and to use its 6 month period from 1st January 2006 as president
of the EU-council to pressure for a similar ban EU-wide. A large majority
voted in favour of this proposition.
On 7th February 2006, the German Parliament followed suit. The Green Party
put a similar proposal to the vote. Again, the large majority of Parliament
approved the proposal, ending with the words: "The German Parliament is,
together will all animal protectionists in the EU, expecting that the
EU-Commission will stick to the aims formulated in the EU constitutional
proposal, which included animal welfare, and hence that the Commission will
support all efforts on the national level to protect wild animals and that
it won't insist on forms of keeping and using animals that are inconsistent
with animal welfare or the protection of species."
On 16th February 2006, EU Parliament decided on a new directive regarding
the provision of services across borders within the EU. After many protests,
the fraction won the day which said that those providing services must abide
by the laws of the country they are providing the services in. This
decision, clearly, also supported the position that a ban on wild animals in
one country must be respected by the circuses in all other countries.
While the EU-Commissioner McCreevy was reluctant to answer any questions or
to meet with animal advocate delegations, his replies to queries changed
from being very assertive at the beginning of the campaign, to being quite
defensive at the end. Also, a number of MEPs had been prompted by animal
rights groups, especially the VGT, to have appointments with him and
pressure for a reaction. It became more and more clear that animal rights
had won the day. On 12th April 2006, Commissioner McCreevy said publicly
regarding this case: "As we had received a complaint, we had to follow it
up. But I am confident that this case can soon be closed." After publication
of this statement, many MEPs congratulated the Commissioner to this decision
to drop the case. With this outcome, it is clear that the wellbeing of
animals is becoming an increasingly important issue in the EU.
On 12th December 2006 the Commission formally closed the infringement
proceedings. A big success for the international movement for animals and a
big step forward to a ban on european level!
VGT - VEREIN GEGEN TIERFABRIKEN, Waidhausenstr. 13/1, A-1140 Wien
Tel +43 1 929 14 98, Fax +43 1 929 14 982