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cirque en france

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International laws

Austria - Wild animals have been banned in circuses since 2005, except lions and tigers. The Federal States of Vienna and Salzburg are strongly pushing for this ban to be applied to all wild animals. (Source: Association Vier Pfoten)

Belgium - Only animals born in captivity can be kept in circuses. Circus traveling is limited, tours that do not allow natural behavior or that result in physical violence are forbidden, and there are minimal standards of detention. (Royal Belgian Order of September 2, 2005)

Denmark - Wild animals (except Asian elephants, camels, and llamas) have been banned in circuses since 1991. (Danish Act on Protection of Animals, Act No. 386, June 1991)

Finland - Wild animals (except seals) have been banned since 1996. (Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, August 2, 1996)

Norway - Wild big cats and bears are banned, as well as all other animals if captured in the wild. (Welfare of Animals, Act No. 73, 1974)

Sweden - Wild carnivorous animals, pinnipeds (except seals), rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, cervids (except reindeer), giraffes, kangaroos, raptors, ratites (ostriches, rheas, emus), and crocodiles have been banned since 1988. (Animal Welfare ordinance, Act No. 539, 1988)

Brazil - Domestic and wild animals are banned in circuses. (Legislative Assembly of the State of Rio de Janeiro, No. 2634/2001)

Costa Rica - Wild animals have been banned since July 2002.

India - Circuses are forbidden from presenting shows featuring tigers, panthers, lions, monkeys, and bears. (The Times of India News Service, 10/05/2001)

Israel - In practice, ban of wild animals by refusal to grant certification since 1998. ("La souffrance des animaux n'a rien d'amusant" - GAIA 2003)

Singapore - Wild animals banned from touring shows since 2000. (Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore, Ministry of National Development, 2000)

French Legislation

The August 21, 1978 order sets rules for the operation and control of establishments that present live local or foreign wildlife specimens to the public. Sections 15 and 16 specify that this order applies to mobile establishments "subject to adaptations required by the mobile nature of their facilities."

Circus professionals have not complied with the general rules of this order, either with respect to minimum detention standards or the continuous provision of healthy and fresh water.

The retranscribed Zoo Directive replaced this order for zoos, rendering it valid only for circuses, which are entitled to invoke the phrase "subject to" to absolve themselves of any obligations.

There is currently no minimum detention standard. Most animals are restrained in very small spaces (3 to 4 m 2 ) with no habitat enhancement and often nothing to drink.





monkey circus monkey circus
Caged macaque chained inside a dark hutch at the back of a circus truck A. Dumas

panthera circus

This black panther in the Diana Moreno Bormann circus has only a few square meters in the dark with no bedding and no water source.

Seeing this animal's state and living conditions, it is particularly disturbing that her "owner" is an expert reporter with the Environment and Sustainable Development Ministry in the commission that issues certificates of competence.

Certificates of Competence

Certificates of competence are individual administrative decisions acknowledging a person's qualification to assume responsibility for keeping non-domestic animal species. (30)

This certificate is the only constraint for circuses, although animal caretakers do not necessarily hold a certificate.

When one sees the conditions in which animals are held and the resulting problems, it is clear that the certificate of competence does not guarantee the bearer is qualified to respect the animal's basic needs.

October 25, 2004 - A Polish caretaker working for the Pinder circus was injured by a tiger. Due to his own error, this man in his thirties suffered a deep gash in one ear and a small part of his cheek from the animal's claws.

This accident is not the first. A caretaker was severely injured in August 2000, and in March 2003, a tiger tore off a circus employee's arm.

According to Office National de la Chasse et de la Faune Sauvage, in 2007 no fewer than 22 tigers, 32 lions, 1 panther, and 17 primates (9 baboons, 7 magot monkeys, and 1 green monkey) were held illegally by "owners" who had not applied for certificates of competence. This does not include all the certificate applications the Environment Ministry denied. (30)


The strict application of Section L.214.1 of the rural code stipulating that " any animal, as a sensitive being, must be placed by its owner in conditions compatible with the biological imperatives of its species " should bring about a change in the treatment of animals in circuses.

As we have shown in this report, species' biological imperatives are absolutely not respected and--as shown by the science team at the Vienna Zoo--while improvements in the short term are desirable, they will not be sufficient due to the mobile nature of circuses. How can we establish a minimum welfare standards for zoo animals that are invalid for circus animals? Prohibiting wild animals in these mobile establishments is the only viable solution in the medium term.

The large number of animals and births in circuses--in 2005 the Amar Circus reported the birth of 15 tigers and 12 lions--has given rise to a real placement problem. While new sanctuaries can provide valuable assistance, they are not enough, due to the number of animals needing to be placed.

Given the experience of other countries, a ban is not feasible except through gradual extinction and on a case-by-case basis according to species.

In response, French animal protection and defense associations and foundations unanimously agreed on a joint proposal submitted to the Environment Ministry in 2007. This proposal is reasonable, given both the physiological needs of animals and the time circus professionals will need to make changes.

While we understand the circus world's misgivings regarding these inevitable changes, continuing to exploit animals at any cost--when we are learning more and more how similar to us and fragile they are--will inevitably lead circuses to a dead end.

If circuses are a living dream, let us ensure they go forward wide awake.

great apes circus
Bonobo - Kinos circus

Joint proposal >>

(30) DNP/CFF 2000-1 circular of January 17, 2000


BRESARD B., "L'Enrichissement du Milieu de l'Animal de Laboratoire : quelques éléments." Pharmacology thesis, Université de Liège, 1993.

BRIDE Mc, GLEN & CRAIG, J.V., "Environmental Design and its Evaluation for Intensively Housed Animals" in Bresard B., 1985.

CLUBB Ros and MASON Georgia, "A Review of the Welfare of Zoo Elephants in Europe", Oxford University / RSCPA, 2002

FISCHBACHER M., SCHMID H., "Feeding Enrichment and Stereotypic Behavior in Spectacled Bears." Zoo Biology, 1999.

HANNIER I. in "Le Point Vétérinaire" vol.26 n°165, February 1995.

JACOB Pascal, "Bêtes de Cirque", Magellan & Cie , 2004

LINDAU K-H, "Lameness in Circus Elephants:   A Result of Training? Verhanlungsberichte des Internationalen Symposiums über die Erkrankungen des Zootiere, 1970 - Translated by Nathalie Dessi.

SCHWAMMER Harald Dr, PECHLANER Helmut Dr, GSANDTER Hermann, BUCHLKRAMMERSTATTER Dr, "Guidelines for the Keeping of Wild Animals in Circuses", Vienna 1996.   Translated by Anne-Laure Wittmann.

VAN ROOJEN, "Impoverished Environments and Welfare" in Applied Animal Behaviour Science 12, 1984, p.3-13.

WEMELSFELDER, F., "The Concept of Animal Boredom and its Relationship to Stereotyped Behaviour" in Lawrence, A.B. & Rushen, J. (publishers). "Stereotypic Animal Behaviour. Fundamentals and Applications to Welfare." CAB International, UK,1993.

ZECCHINI Alain, "Les Animaux Sauvages Peuvent-Ils Rester 'Naturels'?", in "Le Courrier de l'Environnement" n°46, INRA. June 2002.

Acknowledgements to Valérie, Virginie, Arnauld, René-Marc and Kind translators


Code Animal - March 2008