France said Tuesday it planned to “gradually” ban mink farms in the country as well the use of wild animals in travelling circuses and the breeding of dolphins and orcas in captivity.
Environment minister Barbara Pompili announced the sweeping measures saying “our attitude to wild animals has changed”.
The country’s three dolphinariums will also no longer be able to breed or bring in new dolphins or killer whales.
“It is time that our ancestral fascination with these wild beings no longer means they end up in captivity,” Pompili added.
Animals rights group PETA hailed the decision as “an historic victory”.
“Champagne bottles are being uncorked here. Thank you to all those who have helped bring this about.”
The animal charity 30 Million Friends also welcomed the ban, tweeting that the government had taken “the public’s demands for the wellbeing of wild animals” into account.
It said it wanted the decisions to be pushed through as quickly as possible.
However, the minister was vague on when the shutters would come down on mink farms and the use of wild animals for entertainment, saying only that it would be in “the years to come”.
“Putting a date on it does not solve all the problems,” she said.
“I prefer to start a process so that we get there as quickly as possible.”
The measures are sure to be resisted by the French fur industry, which has fought a dogged rearguard action in recent years against luxury fashion houses going fur-free.
And it is as yet unclear what the measures will mean for theme parks that stage birds of prey shows.
Pompili said no new dolphinariums will be allowed to be built in France.
She said the government was looking at the idea of a sanctuary for the dolphins and the three orcas which now in captivity.
And she warned that it could take “seven to 10 years to prepare a future” for the creatures.
French circuses use some 500 wild animals at the moment, according to the profession.
Pompili said the government was going to offer circuses and dolphinariums an aid package of up to eight million euros ($9.3 million) to help them adapt to the bans.
“We are asking (circuses) to reinvent themselves,” she said.
“It will be a time when they will need support, and the state will be at their side,” the minister added.
More than 20 European countries have either banned or heavily restricted the use of animals for entertainment.
Some 400 local councils in France already have such bans in place.