A 70,000-strong petition demanding a legal end to the inclusion of wild animals in travelling circuses has been handed in to the Swiss government by several activist organisations.
The petition – “No to wild animals in circuses” – was launched by the groups Pro Tier (‘pro animal’), Tier im Recht (‘animal in the right’) and Quatre Pattes (‘four paws’), and collected 70,076 signatures before being presented in Bern on Thursday.
The activists want the government to formulate a law that “takes seriously the scientifically grounded concerns about the detention of wild animals”, and to draw up a list of animals banned from circuses and variety shows.
The natural needs of the beasts cannot be met in a circus, the petitioners said at a press conference. The size of their cages, the constant moving from place to place, the proximity with humans, and their pre- and post-tour treatment all raise problems.
Circuses in Switzerland are currently allowed keep wild animals in spaces smaller than they would enjoy in a zoo. Elsewhere in Europe, in 26 other countries, restrictions and sometimes blanket bans exist.
That said, change is already headed in a positive direction, says Barbara Kerkmeer of Pro Tier. For example, the famous Swiss circus Knie, which begins touring on Thursday evening in canton St Gallen (the choice of timing by the petitioners was not accidental) has not kept big cats for years; since 2016, it has also stopped parading elephants.
Other circuses however, including the Gasser-Olympia and the Royal, have performed with big cats during their most recent tours.