Portugal has decided to ban wild animals in circus performances by 2024, according to a law passed by parliament Tuesday night and welcomed Wednesday by animal rights groups.

“This law was eagerly awaited, the place of wild animals is not in circuses, people must be able to entertain themselves without suffering for the animals,” said Bianca Santos, vice president of the Portuguese association AZP, which advocates for the welfare of animals.

Lions, tigers, elephants, camels or zebras: this ban will concern more than 1,100 animals belonging to about forty species.

With the law approved this week thanks to the votes of both left and right MPs, Portugal joins the 40 or so countries in the world, half of them in Europe, which already limit use of animals in circuses. It provides circuses a six-year transition period to reinvent themselves.

“The Parliament finally understood that bigger cages, stricter rules or more controls were not a solution to the problem of these animals, reduced to mere puppets, to which their dignity was removed”, responded the deputy André Silva of the political Party Person-Animal-Nature (PAN), which first submitted a bill on this subject almost a year ago.

By 2024, the owners of the circuses will have to register these animals on a platform to be created soon, while the government will have to organize the placement of these animals in reception centers, in Portugal or abroad.

Performing professionals who agree to part with their animals before the end of the transition period can also benefit from assistance for their professional retraining.

The representative association of the twenty or so Portuguese circuses opposed this law, saying in a statement that it “contributes to the disappearance” of this sector.

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