A landmark decision by Fingal County Council in Dublin has resulted in the first ever ban of performing 'wild' animals in circuses in Ireland. The ban, announced after a unanimous vote by Council Members on 8th October, follows years of campaigning by Circus Watch Ireland and the Alliance for Animal Rights (AFAR), along with other campaign groups and prohibits wild animal acts from public lands in the council area.
The decision instigated by Socialist Party�s Cllr Clare Daly. According to media sources, Spokesperson for Circus Watch Ireland Nuala Donlon congratulated the Fingal councillors for passing the motion and called on county and city councils throughout the republic to follow their example and impose similar bans.
"This is an extremely important first step towards ending the Victorian practice of keeping wild animals in travelling shows, and it reflects the growing opposition in this country to the cruelty to animals which is inherent in all animal circuses", Ms. Donlon said.
Animals in circuses live a life of restriction, cages, chains, physical abuse and neglect, and constant transportation. In the summer of 2006 the Captive Animals' Protection Society investigated animal circuses across Ireland to expose how the animals are treated and housed. A vet experienced in the behaviour and welfare of wild animals in captivity accompanied investigators on some of the visits, and investigators found that many animals lived their lives confined to pens and cages, or chained by the legs; the circuses moved on a regular basis (sometimes twice a week); some animals even faced gruelling journeys of up to 1,000 miles from across Europe to appear in Irish circuses.
Investigations carried out by other animal rights organisations also reveal that animals are routinely beaten and intimidated to make them perform, left without food or water, and often are not given proper medical care. Also, performing animals often become a danger to the public.
According to data records kept by AFAR, there have been 8 people injured by circus animals in Ireland and two people killed.
"We are looking on this as the beginning of the end for circuses with animals in Ireland. This is the first council to get this motion passed unanimously (despite the issue being raised in other areas in the past). Hundreds of emails were sent to Fingal councillors from animal rights activists which helped enlighten them on the plight of animals confined in the beastwagons of travelling circuses," stated Bernie Wright, Press Officer for AFAR.
The example set by Fingal County is now being followed by other Irish counties. On 10th October 2007 Newtownabbey council in County Antrim voted to ban animal circuses on council land, this decision will be ratified at a council meeting later in the month.
200 Councils in the UK have banned circuses with animals.