On a sign is the silhouette of the tigress Mévy, shot in November 2017 in Paris after escaping from his circus. On another, that of the elephant Tyke, who had suffered the same fate in 1994 after being taken a stroke of madness in Honolulu (Hawaii).
At the call of Paris Animal Zoopolis, an association born in 2017 that fights against animal captivity, several organizations (One Voice, L214, Animal Party) and dozens of activists participated in a rally, Thursday, May 16, a few steps from the Place de la Republique, in Paris, to demand a law prohibiting circuses with wild animals. A sensitive question, to the point that a presentation with animals, initially planned by circus on the same day, and on this same place, was canceled.
It is difficult at the moment to know precisely how many wild animals are currently under the capitals of France. A register must be established from the database of identification of protected wildlife (I-FAP), which requires since 2017 to fill in the "identity card" of each wild animal in France. The association Code animal, which militates against the captivity of the wildlife, estimates at approximately 2,000 the number of wild animals held by a hundred circuses in France, mainly tigers, lions, macaques, baboons, elephants and zebras.
A "fun at the expense of animals"
Long transports, constant displacements, inappropriate captivity conditions leading to stereotypies (repetitive behaviors), training techniques, unnatural positions … associations, like L214, denounce a "Fun at the expense of animals". In response, the Circassians point out that animals, most of them born in circuses, have no other environment and needs different from their congeners in freedom.
"Animals (in captivity) retain the impulses and needs of their natural instinctive behavior"
"It takes thousands of years to change the physiological needs of species," refutes Sophie Dol, veterinary practitioner in Paris and present in the event. This position is in line with that of the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE), which brings together veterinary organizations from more than 35 countries, and which considers, in an opinion delivered in June 2015, that " animals (in captivity) have the same genetic heritage as their counterparts in nature and retain the impulses and needs of their natural instinctive behavior. " The FVE, of which is a member of the National Association of French Veterinarians, has thus positioned itself against the use of wild mammals in itinerant circuses, arguing that "Serious risks to both animal health and public health and safety".
Several countries have taken measures in recent years to ban the presence of wild animals in traveling circuses. According to an animal code census, twenty-eight states have adopted a total ban, including Belgium, Italy or Mexico. The latest to be positioned in this direction is the United Kingdom, whose environment minister, Michael Gove, presented on 1st May a bill.
Several other countries have introduced a partial, local or species-specific ban. In France, dozens of cities have issued prohibition orders, but many of them have been annulled by the courts. Other cities have expressed non-binding wishes, such as Strasbourg or Lille, which adopted, on April 4, a wish of "Progressive withdrawal of wild animals in circuses".
A regulated holding in France
Asked by a written question from the deputy (Génération.s) Régis Juanico, the Ministry of the ecological and solidarity transition responded, on April 30: "In the current state of the law, a general ban on circuses with animals is not acceptable, at least of course for circuses that comply with the regulations and do not pose a risk to safety. "
In France, the detention of non-domestic animals in traveling shows is regulated by a decree of 18 March 2011, which stipulates that "Animals must be maintained and trained in conditions that are designed to meet their biological and behavioral needs, to ensure their safety, well-being and health".
At the request of the Ministry, a working group on the welfare of captive wildlife was set up in the spring, bringing together twelve representatives of Circassian professions, twelve animal welfare associations and mayors. Two out of four meetings have already taken place, the next will be held on 23 May. This commission must submit proposals to the minister at the beginning of the summer.
"We will not be able to be satisfied with developments and sizes of cages"warns Sophie Dol. The associations highlight the fact that circuses can reinvent themselves without animals on all fours. More and more companies, such as Cirque Phenix, Romanes and Joseph Bouglione, no longer offer shows with animals. The Austrian circus Roncalli has gone even further, investing 500,000 euros to create holograms of big cats and primates, and intends to present a number with a … acrobatic robot.