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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Circus owners claim discrimination after ban on school visits to the circus in Malta

A hardhitting campaign against the use of animals in circuses by a coalition of NGOs in Malta has prompted anger among circus owners and their representatives. The campaign made significant progress recently when the Maltese department of education banned state schools from organising visits to the circus during the Christmas period.

In response, the circus lobby filed a judicial protest before the first Hall of the Civil Court against the Director of Educational Services, the Malta Broadcasting Authority Chairman and the Attorney General on behalf of the Government, claiming discrimination because school visits to the circus had been prohibited. JR Productions argued that the ban implied that circuses involved animal cruelty but denied that this was the case - in spite of the fact that circus animals spend a lifetime being forced to live and behave in a way that is entirely unnatural to them.

On 4 November a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses in Austria was upheld by the European Commission, in spite of a move by the European Circus Association (ECA) to overturn it.

Jorg Leichtfried, Vice-President of the animal welfare 'Intergroup' in the European Parliament, welcomed the Commission's decision and appealed to other member states to follow the Austrian example and take action so that wild animals in European circuses would soon become a thing of the past.

Max Farrugia of International Animal Rescue in Malta said: "The ban by the Department of Education on school visits to circuses sends out a clear message: watching wild animals being forced to perform for public entertainment is of no educational value whatsoever and encourages children to view wild animals as performing puppets, rather than sentient beings with clear physical and psychological needs. The life of a circus animal is not a happy one and we should all do our bit to ensure that the show does not go on."