The Colombian Senate’s Fifth Committee has approved a draft bill to end the use of animals in traveling circuses.

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The 8 to 1 committee vote (4 absent) sends the Bill to the plenary session and was welcomed by Animal Defenders International (ADI), following a six-year campaign after their undercover investigators exposed cruelty and suffering in Colombia’s circuses.

Bill 244, 2012, introduced by Senator Juan de Jesus Cordoba and supported by Senator Camilo Sanchez, Rep. Hugo Velasquez, and president of the House of Representatives Augusto Posada, prohibits the use of animals in circuses. The Committee heard evidence from Eduardo Pena, ADI South America campaign coordinator and representatives of the animal circus industry.

Cordoba urged the Fifth Committee members to support the Bill, saying, “The passage of this bill would prevent the public health and safety problems triggered by animal circuses.” The Bill has widespread public support as well as a number of Colombian public authorities, celebrities and organizations.

Pena said, “We urge approval of this important initiative. It is not opposed to circuses, we want to see more humane shows for the benefit of the animals, the people who work in the circus and the public. Audiences can enjoy talented human performances, and cut out the suffering.” ADI’s investigation horrified the public and exposed: abuse of elephants, tigers, ponies, llamas and shockingly, an elderly female chimpanzee screaming as she is repeatedly punched in the face and beaten with a chain. Dogs, tigers and a horse displayed abnormal, stereotypic behaviour, indicating suffering due to deprivation.

ADI president Jan Creamer said, “People are shocked because every time we have sent our investigators to work undercover in the circus industry, they have found abuse. We now believe that the whole culture of the circus industry, worldwide, gives rise to the ill treatment of animals and poor environmental conditions are common. The animals exist to perform, with no regard for their welfare and intrinsic value.”