After members of the public allegedly witnessed the Cirkella Circus in Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq, Malta, abusing a duck as part of its performance, the police confiscated the bird on 22nd December 2022 as using animals in circuses has been illegal in the country since 2014. The bird was initially handed over to the Animal Welfare Services, but eventually, the authorities returned the duck to the circus and it is not clear whether the case will be referred for any further action.
Sarah Grech was one of the people who raised the alarm to the police, and she said “Each time the duck hit the metal stands or the stone floor, it struggled to move before being grabbed and launched into the air again…People look at me as if I’m rude or absurd for simply not being entertained by a duck being suffocated in a smoking box and then being thrown around for enjoyment as if it’s not an intelligent species capable of feeling pain, experiencing emotions and responding to their environment.” Commissioner for Animal Welfare Alison Bezzina has made a public appeal urging anyone who witnessed the incident to come forward.
According to its publicity, the circus performance was organised by Splash and Fun Park and the Spanish circus artist group La Gondola Rossa. In Malta, holders of a zoo license are exempted from the performing animals ban, but it is believed that Splash and Fun Park does not have one. However, its sister company, Mediterraneo, apparently does, and under this licence, it keeps captive dolphins, sea lions, macaws and various reptiles. On 19th November 2022, animal rights activists marched to Mediterraneo Marine Park to protest the keeping of such animals. In July, it was reported that three dolphins at the park had died in 2021 and their deaths had not been publicly disclosed. Further investigation concluded they had died of lead poisoning.