France said Tuesday it planned to "gradually" ban mink farms as well the use of wild animals in travelling circuses and dolphins and orcas in theme parks.
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."
France's most outspoken animal advocate, veteran actress Brigitte Bardot, also cheered the change.
Her foundation tweeted its "immense thanks" to Pompili but the L214 group which had also lobbied ministers said it would not rest till the cruelty inflicted on "more than a billion intensely farmed animals" in the country was also ended.
The charity 30 Million Friends also welcomed the ban, tweeting that it wanted the decisions to be pushed through as quickly as possible.
- Circus fury -
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 circus unions reacted angrily to the decision, warning that it would lead to animals being abandoned.
William Kerwich, head of the circus animal trainers' union, told AFP that the industry was in "shock".
"She didn't want to listen to us. We are not going to be able to work -- who is going to pay for the meat for the lions and tigers and the food for the elephants?
"Circuses will have to abandon their animals and the minister will be responsible," he added.
"We didn't find them in the jungle," Kerwich insisted, circuses bred them and "we love them".
- No new dolphinariums -
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 three orcas 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.
But Pascal Picot, who runs the Marineland park on the French Riviera at Antibes, said the compensation package was "ridiculous".
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.