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Coercive Training That Goes Against Nature

While we cannot affirm that acts of violence are systematically perpetrated on animals in circuses during training, we can nevertheless affirm that the methods used are coercive and contrary to animal welfare.

bullhook The ankus --a sharp, pointed hook--is used in circuses to force elephants to assume the positions desired by the trainer. The spike is generally covered with ribbons to keep the audience from seeing the implement hidden beneath them. In a public performance of the Alexis Grüss Circus, the trainer Firmin Grüss could be seen striking the elephant Syndha behind the ear and feet for failing her balancing act.

For wild cats and primates, whips and clubs replace the ankus and are used to constantly pressure the animals into submission and remind them that they may be corrected if they refuse to perform. Testimonials by trainers only confirm the sad reality behind circus lover Pierre Robert Levy's statement that "it would be hypocritical to think training could occur without restraint and some degree of violence. (13) "

bullhook elefant
The elephant Samba of Circus Europe International
(Franck Schrafstetter / One Voice)

"You have probably noticed that during shows, the elephant trainers are holding a leather crop decorated with a flower at the tip. The trainer approaches the animal, gestures gracefully with his hand, and the elephant--as though obeying the flower--goes docilely to the spot indicated. But none of the spectators know that the beautiful rose actually hides a steel hook that would be thrust into the elephant's ear at the smallest sign of disobedience. It is like this in circuses around the world. 14 " (Vladimir Deriabkine, Trainer)

"I stood firm, waiting for them, whip in hand (...). They understood full well that the clash between us, without witnesses, would be turbulent. (15) " (Jean-Richard, Trainer)

"(...) and make them understand the law of the club, where a blow to the nose should be enough to eliminate any further inclination toward aggression. (16) " (Jean Richard, Trainer)

"Docile animals that have become aware of their superiority are the most dangerous of all the wild cats. If they have never been corrected they do not fear humans, and nothing can curb their wild instinct. (17)" (Alfred Court, Trainer)

"Many trainers beat their animals. (18) " (Maxime Sénéca, Trainer)

Unnatural positions and behaviors

tiger moreno

Without restraint, animals cannot be made to do things against their nature. The presence of the large cats in the central cage poses a variety of problems and is a source of additional stress for the animals:


Central cage - Diana Moreno Bormann Circus

- Breakdown of social groups

- Difficulties with shared accommodation, particularly between species (lions, tigers, etc.)

- Lack of flight distance

- Presence of fire

- Unnatural positions (sitting, standing on hind legs, etc.)

"For 2002 I'm preparing an act like none other in the world with 10 lions and 8 tigers. It's not that easy because they don't always get along very well naturally. And some of them are quite a headache. I'll need four more months of work." (Frédéric

Edestein - Pinder Circus, 2001)

08/10/05 - Rennes - Another incident at Pinder Circus

The lion "act" turned into a free-for-all. Trainer Dick Chiperfield (substituting for Frédéric Edelstein, who has a hand injury) was out of his depth. With the help of Gary Yhan (another trainer), as well as blows from stools and pitchforks, the ring was cleared in 15 minutes.

Forcing an elephant into an unnatural position such as headstands, standing on the hind legs, or kneeling can affect the animal's health, according to zoologists at the Vienna Zoo: "These positions can cause joint and intervertebral disk injuries, as well as cracked toenails. Balancing exercises can lead to motor disorders in the elbow and knee joints. (19) "

According to circus elephant specialist A. Kuntze, a seated position, for example, can lead to "a serious condition and possibly death if prolapsed organs (intestines, bladder, uterus) become constricted and necrose. (20) " Many disorders are diagnosed after elephants are forced into unnatural behaviors that require constant pressure on or overexertion of part of the body.

elefant circus
Sabbah & Dehli - Pinder Circus
(Franck Schrafstetter/One Voice)

The premature wear and tear of joints, tendons, and limbs is believed to be the result of exercises requiring animals to stand on one leg or form a pyramid. Lindau (21) confirms that these positions on the front or hind legs can lead to limping and are particularly dangerous for young elephants.

Death of the elephant Tatcha, a symptomatic example

circus élephant

Captured in Africa in the 1980s, the elephant Tatcha of Maximum Circus died in 2006 at age 23 (the average life expectancy of an elephant is 60 years).

Heart problems are the primary cause of mortality in adult elephants in captivity. The elephant Wurza of Arlette Grüss Circus suffered from heart failure in November 2003 at the age of only 25. These premature deaths are the result of an excessively rich diet, lack of exercise, and stress.

An RSPCA study also shows that many elephants in captivity have vitamin and mineral deficiencies (vitamin E, zinc, iron, etc.).


13 LEVY, Pierre Robert, Les animaux du cirque , Syros Alternative,1992.

14 DERIABKINE, Vladimir, Courrier International , No. 641, February 13, 2003.

15 RICHARD, Jean, Mes bêtes à moi , Éd. Fernand Nathan, 1966.

16 RICHARD, Jean, Envoyez les lions !! ou le métier de dompteur , Éd. Fernand Nathan, 1971.

17 COURT, Alfred, La cage aux fauves , Éd. de Paris, 1937.

18 Dordogne Libre , March 18, 2000.

19 SCHWAMMER, Dr. Harald, PECHLANER, Dr. Helmut, GSANDTER, Hermann, BUCHL-KRAMMERSTATTER, Dr. Guidelines for keeping of wild animals in circuses , Vienna, 1996.

20 KUNTZE, A. "Work-related illnesses: hernia perinealis, bursitis praepatellaris, and tyloma olecrani in female circus elephants," Verh.Ber.Erkrg.Zootiere , 1989.

21 LINDAU, K-H, "Lameness in circus elephants - a result of training?" Verhanlungsberichte des Internationalen Symposiums über die Erkrankungen des Zootiere , 1970.