Acknowledging the inability of a wild animal to endure the life of a traveling circus performer, constantly being hauled from town to town, French Environment Minister Barbara Pompili recently announced a gradual ban on the use of elephants (employing them & their bullhook wielding trainers) and other species of wildlife in traveling circuses in France. What she did not specify was a reasonable frame of time to get the job done, to enforce the ban.
Wild animals, (and particularly elephants, always the main attraction to any circus show) have, for too long, been exploited by humans for human entertainment.
The trend of holding wild animals captive to serve as circus performers / show exhibits has, thankfully, lost the appeal it once had in the 17th century when menageries (ironically first referenced in France) were an oddity and enthusiastically received as they traveled across the country to a roaring success.
But the lions and tigers and elephants were never willing participants. And the abuse they endured, during the process of their training to become performing animals, (breaking the spirits of our elephants in an effort to tame them, for one) of which the public has now become very much aware, has all but killed a dying industry. And we have animal welfare and elephant advocates to thank for that.
Barbara Pompili has taken a good first step to help protect our elephants and other wild animals held in captivity. This cannot happen soon enough. Our attention should now be focused on zoos, which was not included in this ban.
The following news reports, one from FRANCE 24 & one from TRT World Now explain more.
FRANCE 24 Narrator, Yena Lee: “Big cats, elephants, and dolphins. In France wild animals like these will be harder to see with your own eyes in the years to come. French Environment Minister Barbara Pompili announced new measures on wildlife protection. First on her radar, traveling circuses.
French Environment Minister Barbara Pompili: “It is no longer reasonable to transport hippos or wild cats from city to city. So we will gradually work towards a ban on wild animals in traveling circuses based on the incompatibility of these species to live in these conditions.”
FRANCE 24 Narrator, Yena Lee: “She did not announce a precise date for the ban, there are currently some 500 wild cats in French circuses. Animals rights activists say it is urgent to rescue them as soon as possible.”
Muriel Amal, President, NGO One Voice: “What about reproduction? Are we going to let lions and tigers continue to breed and supply traffic? What about all the animals who are suffering right now? Will they have to wait a few more years? It is unacceptable.”
FRANCE 24 Narrator, Yena Lee: “Also in the coming years a ban on breeding dolphins and killer whales. As the government eyes an end to wildlife in captivity it has pledged eight million euros ($9,464,677.82 USD) toward retraining circus and aquarium professionals. The director of one of France’s three dolphinariams says the budget is ridiculous.
Pascal Picot, Director Marineland: “We are surprised and shocked by the absence of consultation and debate before making this arbitrary and unilateral decision.”
FRANCE 24 Narrator, Yena Lee: “Lastly a ban on mink farms where the mammals are bred for their fur. The French government wants to put an end to the practice within five years.”
Watch FRANCE 24 YouTube video “France to ban wild animals from travelling circuses, mink farms ‘gradually‘”
TRT World Now Newscaster: “Anissa Putois is a spokesperson for PETA France and she joins me from London. Anissa, good to have you on the program with us. This is a gradual ban on traveling circuses, keeping dolphins and killer whales in captivity in marine parks, and on raising mink on fur farms, as I said. But it does not apply to wild animals in other permanent shows, and zoos. Is PETA satisfied with this ban or do you think it does not go quite far enough?”
PETA, Anissa Putois: “Hi, thanks for having me. Yes, we are really satisfied with these announcements. I mean they really target the cruelest forms of animal exploitation, the exploitation of wild animals in captivity today. Um…of course there is, uh… as you say, zoos are still not, uh, included in these measures. Uh, obviously, we do know that these animals… I mean these places are all so wholly and unadapted to, um, captive animals, uh… But there is a a consciousness that is opening up in France and we are hoping that, uh, eventually these measures will pave the way to a wider consideration of all animals in captivity and eventually apply to them, too.”
“I mean in zoos we know that these animals are kept in very small spaces, they are denied everything that is important to them, they are separated from their families, even the best zoos do not come close to the life that they deserve to live in their natural habitats.”
“Today we know that animals are complex, sentient, intelligent beings. They suffer greatly from being caged and kept in tiny tanks. So these announcements are definitely worth celebrating.”
TRT World Now Newscaster: “You talked about a consciousness opening up in France and we are seeing more support for banning circuses and other performances involving the use of wild animals, not just in France but, uh, also around the world. What…what is behind this? Is this just about the general public becoming more educated on this?”
PETA, Anissa Putois: “Oh, without a doubt. I mean, so many groups in France and abroad have been campaigning against these issues for a very long time now, including PETA. And experts have spoken out, um, such as Europe’s Federation of Veterinary…Veterinarians, saying how barbaric these shows are.
We have undercover footage that show what a… bears go through, for instance, to be forced to stand on their hind legs. I mean, they are tied from their necks and forced to stay there for hours on end. Elephants are beaten, they receive shocks to stand on stools. Tigers are forced to jump through flaming hoops. I mean, these are obviously things that they (the animals) do not want to do and they are threatened, they are denied food, they, uh… this this cruel… and this is rampant and horrific abuse and, obviously no one wants to support that today.”
TRT World Now Newscaster: “There are people, though, that do oppose this law. Is it possible at all to keep wild animals in captivity in which they are not mistreated or exploited, or is there an alternative?”
PETA, Anissa Putois: “Well, there is just no need to keep wild animals captive. I mean, they are… they are wild animals, it is, uh, it is in the name, isn’t it? Uh, the only place that they should be is in the wild. Their basic needs just cannot be met in captivity and on top of that it is… it is dangerous for the general public and we cannot even count the, uh, number of fatal, or even near fatal, uh, accidents that have occurred, uh, in circuses and in zoos of late.
And thankfully, we can see today that circuses are now, uh, focusing on innovations, they are using holograms, uh, or they are going back to basics and they are using the arts of performance and, uh, acrobats who really want to perform and who are not being threatened… So that is really… today, um, I do not think we need an alternative, I think we are moving, we are evolving. And the minister talked about a… an evolution, um, and a mature society that we are in where we really want to respect animals and we really and we really want to treat them with care and consideration.”
TRT World Now Newscaster: “I love the, uh, the hologram animals, by the way. That is really a great way to get up close and, uh, personal without harming um, animal or human. Uh, I wanted to ask you where do we draw the line, um. You know, on one end we have house pets, for example, dogs and cats, or even horses which are domesticated. And then on the very other end we have, um, circus animals and, um, killer whales that are trained, and bears, you know, for performances, you know. Where do we draw the line between what we find to be acceptable and what is not acceptable?”
PETA, Anissa Putois: “That is an interesting question. I think we draw the line, um, with, uh, for instance, orcas and bears. We know that these are wild animals with complex needs and uh, cannot… these needs cannot be met, uh, unless they are in the wild. So these these, uh… and furthermore whether this animal is wild or not, no animal should be subjected to the violent training methods, uh, for human gain that they suffer through in these marine parks, or in circuses.
Uh, with regards to companion animals, these are domesticated species that have been created by humans and, um, as long as we keep breeding them for profit, as is happening, there are just so many of them who are in shelters who need a loving home. So, in our opinion… I mean, we really do encourage anyone who has space in their home, um, and in their heart, to uh… to, uh, adopt an animal from a shelter and, uh, give him the best care that they can. I mean, it is a completely different relationship when we really care about a being and we bring them into our families, uh, as opposed… and we put their best interests first, as opposed to exploiting them and, uh, exhibiting them and… for entertainment, and for profit.”
TRT World Now Newscaster: “Alright, thank you so much Anissa Putois, great conversation. And it is great to hear that more people are becoming aware, uh, of the use and mistreatment of of wild animals for these performances. Thank you so much for your time.”
Watch TRT World Now YouTube video “France to gradually ban wild animals in circuses, aquariums”
Images: CC Flickr by DaffyDuke Cirque Maximum Trained Tigers Circus Animals in France ; by dirkjanranzijn Cirque Maximum Elephant Circus Animals in France & by Thierry Llansades Cirque Amar Red Striped Tent in France
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