All wild animals out of the circus

A safety risk for humans and animals

The keeping of wild animals in circuses not only represents a major animal welfare problem, but also a risk to public safety. The behavior of lions, tigers, elephants and other wild animals is fundamentally instinct-driven and therefore unpredictable.

In everyday circus life, enclosures that are easy to set up and dismantle are necessary, which do not offer sufficient safety. Another source of danger is the direct contact between the animals and the circus workers. But also circus visitors, uninvolved residents or road users are exposed to a high risk during circus guest performances and transports.

In an EU report published in April 2021, the European animal welfare umbrella organization Eurogroup for Animals points to a shocking number of dangerous incidents involving wild animals in circuses.

In the last 24 years, from 1995 to 2019, a total of 478 incidents involving wild animals in circuses were recorded in the EU. The highest number of incidents was recorded in Germany (202 cases), followed by France (85) and Italy (44).

A total of 13 people were killed and 99 people injured as a result of an incident involving a wild animal at a circus. 13 different species of animals have been involved in incidents that have injured and killed people. Tigers and elephants caused the highest number of injuries. Human deaths have been caused by tigers, elephants and bears.

74 of the accidents were related to tigers. This is particularly noteworthy because according to the draft of the new circus ordinance in Germany, tigers can continue to be kept in circuses without restrictions.

The report shows that keeping wild animals in circuses is not only a major animal welfare issue, but also a risk to public safety. The easily erected and dismantled demarcations of traveling circuses and the proximity of visitors to dangerous animals pose risks that cannot be fully controlled.

Current situation in Germany

There are still no effective regulations at federal level in Germany. In the past 15 years, the Federal Council has passed several Federal Council initiatives for a ban on wild animals in circuses. However, these have so far been blocked by the federal government, with the argument that such a ban is tantamount to a professional ban and therefore cannot be justified. More information can be found here.

On November 19, 2020, Federal Minister Julia Klöckner presented her draft of the «Animal Welfare Circus Ordinance», in which she wants to ban the display of certain wild animal species in traveling circuses. Specifically, the draft provides for a ban on giraffes, elephants, rhinos, hippos, primates and bears. This is the first political step in a long time to address the serious animal welfare problems in the circus industry.

Even if the draft for is a partial success after years of struggle, it clearly falls short. On the one hand, many animal species, such as lions and tigers, which are widespread in circuses, are excluded from the regulation. They should continue to be allowed under the keeping conditions and the questionable dressage. On the other hand, the draft contains a kind of grandfathering. Only the new acquisition of the species mentioned above for the circus is specifically prohibited. There are no deadlines for the animals that are already there.

, together with numerous other animal protection organizations, wrote a joint statement on the draft bill. You can download these here.

calls for the regulation to be expanded to include:

  • A total ban on wild animals in the circus
  • Reasonable return deadlines for existing animals

Other European countries are well ahead of Germany in this respect and are already partially or even completely banning the keeping of wild animals in circuses. An overview of all individual bans can be found here.

The Corona crisis makes deficits in circuses clear

The corona pandemic hit the entire events industry with full force, and circuses are also suffering from a loss of income. The start of the circus season was canceled due to the Corona crisis, and all performances had to be cancelled. Since the winter break had just ended, there were often no financial reserves to survive this crisis. Many circuses asked for food donations because the animals needed urgent care.

The corona pandemic has revealed a great vulnerability, especially of circus companies: In addition to financial bottlenecks, traveling with a large number of animal species, public appearances and frequent direct contact entails an increased risk of the spread of zoonoses.

Germany must now set the right priorities in combating the pandemic and in avoiding future crises. We have to rethink how we deal with animals, their habitat and breeding – reassess keeping and trading in animals. A ban on wild animals in circuses is long overdue. Now it becomes imperative. Sign our petition and join us in demanding a ban on wild animals in circuses.

Representative survey shows: majority of Germans do not want to see wild animals in the circus

Elephants, tigers, lions or giraffes do not belong in the circus. Around two-thirds of Germans share this view, according to a recent survey by the international animal welfare foundation . In fact, more than 75% of Germans between the ages of 14 and 49 reject the keeping of wild animals in circuses.

Opinion poll on wild animals in the circus

Download the results here