Animal protection campaigners in Italy are calling for a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses following the escape of a lion from a circus near Rome. On 12th November 2023, social media saw a surge of videos of a lion walking around the seaside town of Ladispoli for about six hours before he was sedated and taken into captivity again so the circus from where he escaped could continue exploiting him. 

Kimba, the eight-year-old lion, escaped from Rony Roller Circus where he was forced to perform, and police are now investigating the circumstances of the escape as Rony Vassallo, the performer who forced the lion to perform tricks by using threats of violence, claimed that he found the enclosure unlocked.

The next day dozens of animal rights activists demonstrated outside the circus demanding that the government implement a circus animal ban drafted several years ago but postponed until 2024.

Francesco Borrelli, from the Italian Green party Europa Verde, said, “It’s time to implement a ban on animals in circuses…The images of Kimba’s capture are not worthy of a civilised country.”  In a statement, the Italian branch of the International Organization for Animal Protection (OIPA) said the case of the escaped lion highlights “the dangers of circuses with animals from a public safety point of view” as well as “the discomfort of poor creatures forced into captivity for entertainment.”

Alessandro Grando, the mayor of Ladispoli, said, “I hope that this episode can stir some consciences, and that we can finally put an end to the exploitation of animals in circuses.” Several countries have already banned the use of wild animals in circuses, so it is only a matter of time before Italy does so.  Currently, at least 30 nations have banned the use of wild animals in circuses, including England, Spain, Greece and Austria.

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.