There will be two circuses featuring animals in Malta this Christmas season, with Circo Viviana ORFEI being set up on Manoel Island and Circo Acquatico in Marsa, just weeks before the ban on animal circuses is expected to come into force.
As well as jugglers, magicians, clowns and acrobats, Circo Viviana ORFEI, brought to Malta by promoter Silvio Zammit, has tigers, horses and ponies, a hippopotamus, camels, donkeys, a zebra, a lama, and ostrich and an emu, among others.
In their advertisements, the promoters of both circuses are saying that they will be here for the last time.
In a statement to the media on Friday, Mr Zammit said the Manoel Island Circus will be giving two or three shows a day between 13 December and 5 January. He points out that Circo Viviana ORFEI is established in Italy and has, for generations, respected tradition and animal rights. All the animals have been born in captivity and the circus owners treat them as other people treat their pets.
Shows by Circo Acquatico, the marine animal circus, were planned to start yesterday evening. Circus Malta, the company owned by Johann Said, is promoting the shows on Facebook and has been selling tickets in Valletta for the past few weeks.
Penguins, seals, pelicans and dogs were seen in Youtube videos of the 2011-2012 show by the same company and snakes, a crocodile and fish were in their 2009 promotional video.
The draft legislation to ban circuses was published early last month and the public was given until 1 December to make comments on it. It was presumed the ban would be in place for this year’s festive season, but organisers managed to bring the circuses to Malta just in time.
The draft regulations address a long-standing bone of contention and seek to prohibit the use of “wild animals” for performances, exhibitions and shows, and also ban the training of animals for such a purpose. It is also proposed, logically enough, to ban the advertising and/or promotion of animal circuses.
The draft regulations – Prohibition of Wild Animals in Circuses Regulations, published by the Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change – define a “wild animal” as “an animal that is a member of a species not normally domesticated in Malta”.
According to the draft regulations, anyone contravening the regulations will be liable to a prison term of up to a year and a fine of between €30,000 and €50,000, the cancellation of their permit and the closing down of their circus.
Moreover, upon conviction the court will also have the power to order the treatment and the relocation or forfeiture of wild animals that have been used in circuses, with related costs to be borne by the convicted party.
The absolute majority (94 per cent) of those who submitted their views as to whether or not a ban should be introduced replied positively. Some 398 individuals and NGOs participated in the public consultation, which was held in the summer.
Petition to sign against using animals in circuses:-