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Ombudsman demands EU action on circus animals

Ombudsman demands EU action on circus animals

The European Commission's ombudsman urged the panel on Monday to reopen an investigation into whether an Austrian ban on wild animals used in circuses is too strict.
Ombudsman P. Nikiforos Diamandouros said the commission's move four years ago to drop a court case against the Austrian ban was unjustified and failed to address concerns by circus operators that claim their businesses have been unfairly hit by the ban.
Diamandouros urged the EU executive to restart a legal probe into whether the ban violates the EU's free movement of services rules.
He said the EU executive "cannot abdicate its supervisory role" in ensuring EU countries abide by European rules and regulations. The European Commission is responsible for the drafting of EU laws but must also make sure they are properly implemented and respected by all 27 member states.
The European Circus Association lodged a complaint with the ombudsman in June 2006, complaining the EU Commission failed to look into whether the ban violated EU rules. The group says the ban is hurting its business. No other EU country has such a ban.
The commission originally dropped the case in 2005, saying national authorities could regulate animal welfare themselves.
Arie Oudenes, director of the circus group, said the ban set a "bad example" for the other 26 EU member states, where animal activists could cite Austria's law as a reason to pass similar legislation.
The group filed a complaint with the EU Commission after Austria passed a new animal welfare protection law banning all wild animals from circuses in 2005. Under the law, Austria deems most exotic animals like lions, tigers and elephants, used in circus acts, to be wild. Austrian officials believe the welfare of circus animals cannot be guaranteed due to the mobile nature of the business and the smaller enclosures given to the animals.
"There are numerous examples of circuses doing extremely well and making money without animals. Finances should not be the overriding concern," said Sonja Van Tichelen, head of Eurogroup for Animals, an animal rights group that has campaigned hard for an EU-wide ban.
The EU then opened a court case against Austria for violating the free movement of services, only to drop the case without explanation after meeting with Austrian officials in October 2005.
Oudenes said at least one circus had gone bankrupt because of the ban and added that the two or three remaining Austrian circuses _ traveling without big cats, elephants, giraffes and camels _ are suffering financially.
"They are not doing very great business because people ask for the wild animals," he said.


Updated : 2021-03-06 22:38 GMT+08:00