If we search for the meaning of freedom in the Oxford Dictionaries, we will be able to read definitions like: “The power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.” or “The state of not being imprisoned or enslaved.” Therefore, there are no references that make us believe that the idea of freedom should be applied to human beings only. Conversely, the second definition could be used without reticence for non-human animals, too.

wild animals - circusesThis idea is the foundation around which the ban of wild animals in travelling circuses has been developed in Scotland. After the 2014 Government consultation showed up that more than 98% of Scottish people declared to be against the use of wild animals in travelling circuses, while 96.4% stated the necessity to ban the exhibition (even without performing) of wild animals, in September 2016 the Government announced the crackdown on this theme, as part of its legislative programme. The Environmental Committee is currently examining a legislation whose aim is to forbid travelling circuses from using any non-domesticated animal.

The Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses (Scotland) Bill would turn the use of wild animals in those type of circuses into an offence, making Scotland the first state in the UK to introduce a legislation that outlaws wild animal circuses. The ethical basis on which this bill has been developed allows the inclusion of the power of the police to enter in the circuses spaces, in order to look for and to examine animals.

Even if that type of circus has not visited Scotland for many years, particularly because the use of animals as a form of entertainment is a rarity, this bill will have a double impact. It will reinforce the general feeling of respect for wild animals and their right to live freely in their natural habitat, as well as prohibit the transit of travelling circuses that still enslave animals for their profit (and so reducing their possibility to earn from this slavery).

WUHAN, CHINA - OCTOBER 25: (CHINA OUT) A tamer of Hangzhou Sapphire Circus trains tigers and lions during a rehearsal at the Wuhan Acrobatics Hall on October 25, 2006 in Wuhan of Hubei Province, China. The circus is preparing the program "Taming Lions and Tigers" for the 7th China Wuhan International Acrobatic Festival to be held on October 27, which has attracted acrobats and masters from over 20 countries and regions. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)

Nevertheless, this type of protection has an undesirable effect: it reinforce the distinction between animals. Why bears, tigers and lions should be more protected than horses? Just because they are wild animals does not mean their lives are more valuable. Of course, they need more attention for being endangered species (situation in which they were put by the unknowingly human actions, such as hunting, traditional medicine, deforestation), but a legislation that prohibits the exploitation of ALL animals would not be more fair and respectful of all sentient beings? Life in circuses is a life bereaved of everything that make it worthy of being lived: exploitation, loss of freedom and dignity… See more: https://www.oipa.org/international/circus/


Paola Colombo


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