Circus animal suffering could soon come to an end in the United States. A bill that bans the use of wild animals in traveling circuses was just introduced in Congress.
The measure, called the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act (TEAPSPA), was presented to the House of Representatives today, Common Dreams reported.
The bill would amend the Animal Welfare Act, a law that has monitored human treatment of animals in research, transport, entertainment, and more since 1966.
TEAPSPA would ban traveling circuses and similar acts from featuring exotic and wild animals. The bill’s website explains the “adverse effects” of captivity and transport on animals used for entertainment. “Due to severe confinement, lack of free exercise, and the restriction of natural behaviors, animals used in traveling circuses suffer and are prone to health, behavioral, and psychological problems,” it explains. It is common for circus staff to mistreat animals by using bull hooks, whips, electric prods, and metal bars, which many “would view as torturous,” TEAPSPA says.
It adds that law enforcement authorities struggle to monitor circuses effectively due to their mobility, meaning the “brutality” faced by animals often goes undocumented. “Congress has a responsibility to protect the welfare of animals and ensure public safety,” the website states.
A ban on exotic animal involvement in circuses would also benefit the economy, according to TEAPSPA, which calls it the “least expensive solution to this problem.” It points out that between 2007 and 2010, the USDA inspected Carson & Barnes Circus 42 times, spending a total of $57,246 in doing so.
TEAPSPA adds that the financial burden of the issue often falls in taxpayers’ laps. “The US taxpayer effectively pays for 87% of the licensing costs whereas the circus only pays 13%,” it says.
Banning wild animals in circuses is “cleaner, less costly, and more easily enforced” than current regulations, TEAPSPA maintains.
Arizona Representatives Raúl Grijalva and David Schweikert are sponsoring the bill, as is Jan Creamer, founder and president of Animal Defenders International (ADI). According to ADI, 20 animal protection groups back the bill including Big Cat Rescue and Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest.
English actor, director, and vegetarian Ricky Gervais has shown his support for the measure. “Animals have their spirits broken, beaten out of them, in order to entertain humans in circuses. It is heartbreakingly cruel and humiliating; it belongs to our ignorant past,” he said. “TEAPSPA will bring an end to this suffering.”