Circus animals as a security risk

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.

Almost half of the incidents documented across the EU occurred with circus animals in Germany. This makes Germany the sad leader when it comes to the lack of protection for people and animals in the circus.

This large number of accidents is due not least to the fact that there are no effective legal regulations at federal level in Germany. This is despite the fact that the Federal Council has already passed three Federal Council initiatives (in 2003, 2011 and 2016) for a ban on wild animals in circuses. However, these have so far been blocked by the federal government.

The EU report again confirms the urgency and timeliness of efforts to introduce a nationwide ban on wild animals in circuses. Individual municipalities that have already introduced wild animal regulations for circuses in urban areas, partly for safety reasons, are strengthened in their decision by the report.

Download link to full report: Wild Animals in EU Circuses. Problems, Risks and Solutions.

Many EU countries have already banned or at least restricted wild animals in traveling circuses (see our list of countries with bans on wild animals in circuses). These are welcome steps, but given the cross-border mobility of circuses and the safety risks for people and animals, a uniform EU rule banning wild animals in circuses would be an appropriate solution.