Lonely Planet Writer

Slovakia to protect endangered species with a ban on wild animals in circuses from 2018

A veterinary care law amendment is to be introduced in Slovakia, and part of its scope will include banning wild animals from performing in circuses. Agriculture Minister Gabriela Matečná said that the aim is to protect the most endangered animals, and regulation on what species are to be specifically protected will be released prior to the legislation coming into effect around January 2018.

Slovakia moves to ban performances by circus animals. Image: John Lund
Slovakia moves to ban performances by circus animals. Image: John Lund

While there are no native animal circuses, many foreign circuses perform in Slovakia every year. The amendment means that they will have to register with the State Veterinary and Food Administration of the Slovak Republic, and while the restricted animals will be able to enter Slovakia, they will not be allowed to perform. More power will be given to veterinary inspectors, who will be allowed to enter the circus premises unaccompanied by the police.

Circus elephant balancing on the ball in circus.Image: Oktay Ortakcioglu
Circus elephant balancing on the ball in circus.Image: Oktay Ortakcioglu

Sloboda Zvierat of Freedom of Animals has been campaigning since 2012 against the use of animals in circuses in Slovakia. Slobada says animals like lions and elephants are pushed to perform in ways that don’t suit their natural abilities and character and that they live in undignified conditions. They spend most of their lives in restrictive cages and are only taken out for training or performances, and spend long periods of time on the road. Many live isolated lives in captivity, although they may naturally live in a group out in the wild, he says.

Slovakia moves to ban performances by circus animals. Image: Japatino
Slovakia moves to ban performances by circus animals. Image: Japatino

“Species of wild animals that publicly perform tricks learned from humans and demonstrating atypical behavior not present in nature will be protected,” Vladimír Machalík, head of the Agriculture Ministry’s press office, told the Slovak Spectator. “The regulation will, for instance, protect predators like lions and tigers.”

Greece was the first country in Europe to ban both domestic and wild animals from the circus, and several more countries have followed suit. Other countries have banned certain species or wild animals performing, and Slovakia will join their ranks.