Saeima adopts circus animal ban in second reading

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Latvia's parliament, the Saeima, on May 11 reaffirmed its commitment to ban the use of animals in circuses in the second reading of the law amendments.

As previously reported by LSM, lawmakers backed a total ban in the first reading of legislation on the matter but a parliamentary committee subsequently added amendments that would allow the use of animals provided they had been reared in captivity.

However on May 11 MPs turned down the committee's amendments with 62 votes cast 'for' keeping the previous version of the law, five against and five abstaining.

MP Ingmārs Līdaka (Greens and Farmers Union) argued that there could be no exceptions in this regulation. He said that animals need a place to stay, the sun, a home and a partner, and these needs cannot be met at the circus.

Jūlija Stepaņenko (Harmony), who pushed the aforementioned amendments to the law, called for MPs not to allow what she calls censorship at the circus.

"Let's not censor the program of the circus. It's not the task of the Saeima," she said.

The law, if adopted in the final reading and endorsed by the president, will become effective in July this year while the Riga Circus will be exempt from the ban until January 2018.

Protest by the Saeima

Around 200 people protested outside the building, the great majority calling for a total ban on performing animals, though there were also a several supporters of the status quo, reported LSM's Zane Mače.

"What do we want? Circus without animals! When we want it? Now!" chanted demonstrators.

Animal Freedom Association board spokeswoman Katrīna Krīgere said that for three years the organization and other non-governmental associations had been campaigning for a 'humane' circus without the use of performing animals.

"We want to encourage Saeima members to listen to science, scientific research, national experts, our own national institutions and non-governmental organizations, as there is a broad consensus that it is not possible to provide acceptable levels of welfare to such captive animals," Krīgere said.

However, Sergejs Stupakovs, a magician from the Ukraine, said animals were a necessary part of his act.

"I am a professional illusionist, my performances use performing pigeons, parrots. I support circuses with animals. A real, classical circus has to be with the animals. But this does not mean that I support the cruel treatment of animals," he said.

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