France will gradually ban the use of wild animals in circuses, phase out orca and dolphin shows and will ban mink farming for fur, the environment minister said on Tuesday.
The transition will take several years and existing animal shows will receive government support to switch to a new model, Environment Minister Barbara Pompili told a news conference.
“Today, I announce the progressive end of the presence of wild animals in travelling circuses, a ban on the presence of orcas and dolphins in dolphinariums not adapted to the needs of marine mammals, and the end of mink farming for fur,” she said.
She said the measures would affect about 80 circuses, which have some 230 animals, including big cats, elephants, hippos, wolves and others.
France, which has three dolphinariums, will not allow the opening of new ones and wants the closure of existing ones within seven to 10 years. She also wants the closure of four mink farms within five years.
The state will provide an aid package of more than 8 million euros ($9.36 million) to help animal shows switch to a new business model.
Some 20 European countries have already banned or limited the presence of wild animals in circuses. In France, many cities already do not allow circuses with wild animal shows to pitch their tents.
Head of the French animal shows association William Kerwich said the ban is “a knife in the back” of an industry already hurting from coronavirus crowd limits.
“It will put people out of work. And who will take care of the animals, they are born in captivity, they cannot be set free in the wild,” he said on BFM television.
Animal rights group Fondation Brigitte Bardot said in a statement it would welcome all circus animals, “who are currently kept captive and exploited in terrible circumstances”.