Belgian circus animal ban revoked
4 August 2004
BRUSSELS – Belgium’s most senior constitutional court has lifted a ban on performing circus animals that sparked uproar in the country’s circus community, it was reported on Wednesday.
The Belgian minister in charge of animal welfare, Rudy Demotte, announced at the end of the month that he had drawn up a royal decree banning circuses from keeping wild animals.
But Belgium’s Conseil D’Etat on Tuesday said that it such a wide-ranging ban could not be put into place with a decree alone.
It said the government would need to propose a new law on the issue, which would need to be approved by Parliament before it could enter into effect.
The Conseil D’Etat reached its decision following an urgent appeal against the ban by the circus community on 29 July.
In its ruling the court said a decree could only be used to deal with individual cases relating to the welfare of animals and could not be applied to an entire sector.
Demotte was not available for a scheduled meeting with circus leaders on Tuesday because he was dealing with the aftermath of the fatal gas explosion in south Belgium last week.
But the minister’s office expressed surprise at the motivation behind the suspension of the decree.
Renaud Witmeur, his head of staff, said the cabinet had approved the legal base of the decree in its preparation stages.
“We will, however, take note of this decision and respect it,” he said.
As a compromise measure, the Conseil D’Etat has organised a series of meetings with circus representatives in August and September.
Witmeur said they would seek to find “a compromise suitable for all” but that conditions for circus animals would have to improve.
“We need to make a lot of progress for their well-being,” he said.
Jean-Michel Meunier, Secretary of the Belgian Association of Circus owners, could not hide his satisfaction at the verdict.
“It’s a first victory in the sense that the ban has been blocked,” he said, indicating that the circus community had been prepared to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
“We are entering talks ready for compromise,” he added.
“We would rather adhere to stricter controls and animal protection measures than face an outright ban.”
[Copyright Expatica 2004]
Subject: Belgian news