On World Animal Day, a new poll reveals that 65% of Europeans surveyed condemn the use of wild animals in circuses

Brussels, October 4th 2018 - Wild animals in circuses should be a thing of the past. Or at least this is the opinion of the majority of Europeans surveyed for a new YouGov opinion poll conducted for Netherlands-based NGO AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection on the occasion of World Animal Day.

The survey reveals widespread opposition to the use of wild animals in circuses throughout Europe. The average for all countries surveyed is 65%, with only 22% saying they should still be allowed. Particularly striking is the proportion of respondents in some of the larger EU Member States who think wild animals should not be allowed in European circuses: 63%in Germany, 71% in Italy, 73% in Spain and a staggering 76% in the UK. None of these countries has implemented a national ban of wild animals in circuses, as is already the case in 17 other EU Members. Also in smaller Member States surveyed, from different regions within the EU, a majority of people reject wild animals in circuses.

“This survey confirms what we all instinctively knew already: that a majority of Europeans are more than ready for a new kind of entertainment which does not involve abusing wild animals”, says AAP’s CEO David van Gennep.

Such abuse is still unfortunately widespread. Earlier this year, the Spanish-led coalition InfoCircos launched a petition for the EU to ban the use of wild animals in circuses following a road accident involving a circus truck, which  left one elephant dead and two others severely injured. The petition quickly gained momentum and has so far gathered more than 610,000 signatures from across the EU.

Marta Merchán, coordinator of InfoCircos, explains why the coalition decided to address the European Commission directly: “Besides animal welfare considerations, circuses with wild animals are a serious threat to public health and safety. However, they are still allowed to move freely from one Member State to another, even in those countries where the national legislation does not allow them to perform. This is a cross-border EU concern that needs to be addressed in Brussels.”

A report  published by Eurogroup for Animals last year had also brought to light the shocking number of incidents involving the public and wild animals in circuses across the EU. Over a period of 22 years, 305 incidents involving 608 wild animals were recorded, which is on average 15 per year in the whole of the EU, some of them fatal. Incidents continue to occur regularly.

lion Govani
 Lion Govani was rescued by AAP from horrifying conditions at a Spanish circus. Photo credit: AAP

AAP, which operates two wildlife rescue centres in the Netherlands and Spain, often receives animals with a circus past and has seen the damages created by the breeding, training, performing and living conditions. “Take the case of Nala, a lioness rescued from an illegal circus breeder in France,” adds Van Gennep. “In 40 years of rescue experience I have not seen anything like it. One of the lion cubs we came to rescue was in such bad shape that there was nothing we could do to save him. The facility was run-down and unsafe - and it was located across from a kindergarten!”

Detractors of circus bans often refer to the lack of solutions for the animals which can no longer be used in performances. Van Gennep acknowledges this is a concern, especially with European wildlife rescue centres overflowed with animals, but also points out that organisations like AAP are making considerable investments to expand capacity, and are also forming alliances with sanctuaries and high-quality zoos. “Lioness Nala, for example, will be transported next week to FOUR PAWS’s big cat sanctuary in South Africa, where hopefully she will become the new partner of Saeed, a male lion rescued from Syria by FOUR PAWS. Joint projects like this can ease the burden, but will not solve the problem: only the EU has the power to solve this issue once and for all, and now the European Commission must acknowledge that EU citizens support this.”



All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 11727 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 25th September - 2nd October 2018 in 11 EU countries.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of adults (aged 18+) in each country.