Lawmakers say no to animals in circus shows

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Tue, May 08, 2007 - Page 2

Circus acts featuring lions, tigers and bears may soon be a thing of the past, as the legislature yesterday passed on first reading an amendment to the Wildlife Conservation Law (野生動物保育法).

Human performers are capable of putting on a circus show without animals, legislators said at an Economics and Energy Committee meeting.

The amendment, sponsored by DPP Legislator Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇 ) and 35 other lawmakers, called for circuses to be struck from the list of bodies -- including research institutions, zoos and museums -- allowed to import or export protected wildlife.

"Circuses do not need animals to be fun and successful," Tien said.

Tien cited the Cirque du Soleil as an example of a successful circus that performs without animals on stage.

Tien pointed to several incidents in the past few years to support her argument. Two years ago, a circus bear mauled a three-year-old boy at a farm in Tainan, resulting in the boy's arm being amputated. In 2002, a Bengali tiger on a traveling show from Las Vegas bit off a woman's hand. And this year, two wolves and three bears were found at an abandoned resort farm, left over from a circus from Mongolia which dissolved in Taiwan.

"Whether we are talking from the point of view of public safety, disease prevention or animal welfare, this amendment to stop circus animals from being imported into Taiwan is necessary," Tien said.

Tien also said that banning wild animals trained for the circus from entering Taiwan was a sound policy as it would help wildlife conservation and improve the nation's image abroad.

"Most important, by exposing our children to wild animals through circus acts, we are setting an incorrect example of how humans should interact with animals," Tien said.

The committee also reviewed an amendment sponsored by DPP Legislator Wei Ming-ku (魏明谷), seeking to amend the Wildlife Conservation Law to compensate farmers whose crops are damaged by Formosan macaques -- a protected animal. The measure, which was opposed by the Council of Agriculture, did not pass.