DUBLIN: Ireland will ban the use of wild animals in circuses from January 1, the government has announced, in what it said was a "progressive move" welcomed by activists.
"The use of wild animals for entertainment purposes in circuses can no longer be permitted," said Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, in a statement issued late Thursday.
"This is a progressive move, reflective of our commitment to animal welfare. I am of course allowing a modest lead in period to allow for alternative arrangements to be made for the animals in question."
In recent years, a number of local authorities had refused to authorise the use of public land for circuses where wild animals would be involved, he noted.
Animal rights group PETA hailed the move, saying animals such as elephants, zebras and lions had complex needs that could never be met in a circus.
"These animals are chronically frustrated, stressed, and depressed from a lifetime of being denied the opportunity to do anything that’s natural and important to them," the group said in a statement.
"They're kept caged in trailers that are hauled around the country and forced to perform confusing tricks under the big top out of some Victorian-era concept of amusement."
Andrew Kelly, head of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA), said: "Travelling circuses cannot and will never be able to provide a suitable environment for wild animals."