A number of animal welfare NGOs and several hundreds of people who have been protesting against animal circuses breathed a tentative sigh of relief earlier this week when the government published draft regulations to ban wild animals from circuses.
The draft regulations address a long-standing bone of contention and seek to prohibit the use of “wild animals” for performances, exhibitions and shows and also ban the training of animals for such a purpose. It is also proposed, logically enough, to ban the advertising and/or promotion of animal circuses.
The draft regulations – Prohibition of Wild Animals in Circuses Regulations – published by the Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change – define a “wild animal” as “an animal that is a member of a species not normally domesticated in Malta”.
According to the draft regulations, anyone contravening the regulations will be liable to a prison term of up to a year and a fine of between €30,000 and €50,000, the cancellation of their permit and closing down of the circus.
Moreover, upon conviction the court will also have the power to order treatment and the relocation or forfeiture of wild animals that have been used in circuses, with related costs to be borne by the convicted party.
The public will have four weeks, until 1 December – just in time, presumably, to have the ban in place for the now annual festive season animal circuses – to make their representations to the minister responsible, stating that they believe the proposed regulations do not sufficiently protect the interests of animal welfare or that they feel the regulations are excessively restrictive.
International Animal Rescue (Malta) submitted its proposals when a consultation paper was issued two months ago. We also had a meeting with the Parliamentary Secretary responsible for animal rights and discussed the issue thoroughly.