Animal liberation activists disrupt elephant act at circus
A small group of animal rights activists staged a spectacular disruption of the Arlette Gruss circus in Cabris, France, last night. The activists succeeded in temporarily stopping the circus’ controversial elephant act when they ran down from the upper bleacher seats to the front row of the ring, startling ticket buyers, security personnel, trainer/performers and elephants alike. The activists, who had planned the operation over the course of two weeks, entered the venue like spectators by buying tickets. The 7 activists, 5 women and 2 men, included one videographer who did not participate in the direct action. They blended in with the audience and waited for the elephant act to begin before they ripped off their shirts to expose animal liberation slogans written in bold letters on their bare skin. Over the loud music, they yelled, in unison, “Assez assez! Assez de prisonnniers!” which rhymes in French, meaning: Enough! Enough! Enough for the prisoners!
The entire operation lasted several minutes (see video above) until 6 circus employees rushed down to the ring to control the situation as stunned ticket buyers looked on. The music stopped suddenly and the elephants were quickly led out of the ring as someone in a fake reassuring tone announced to spectators that the activists were going to be thrown out. In the video, one of the female activists can be heard screaming in pain as she is being extracted from the ring. The crowd jeered and clapped as they were forcefully removed. Fifteen armed police arrived within minutes and the activists were all handcuffed in pairs and made to wait outside, forced to sit on the ground under police watch, while authorities waited until the end of the show to ensure there were no more disruptions.
The activists were brought to the police station in Cabris and released on their own recognizance, awaiting a decision by a judge on whether or not the case will be pursued in court. One of the female activists was punched in the face by a male spectator and another sustained a wrist injury when being manhandled by Gruss circus employees.
“There were 4 elephants who were turning in circles while they were riding them,” Sebastien Michelangeli, 33, industrial technician and organizer of the direct action told me on the phone this morning from Nice, France. “I think this is an intolerable form of exploitation and submission and they [Cirque Arlette Gruss] are using them for profit. I am profoundly sad for the victims and angry with their exploiters. We wanted to do more than just standing out front with signs,” he explained.
The anti-captivity movement has been gaining ground globally with two new and important bans on wild animals in circuses being passed recently in Los Angeles and in New York City. This particular circus has been targeted by animal rights activists for years with loud protests outside the circus entrance during performances. This circus, as well as other French circuses have been accused of mistreating their animals and keeping them locked up, traveling long distances in tiny cages for eleven months a year. When they set up in a town, the animals are penned in small enclosures or cages, often exposed to the elements and without shelter, exposed to the hot sun with no shade.
In 2012, I personally inspected the Gruss circus animals when they came to Nice, France, and saw their filthy cages, dirty drinking water, lack of drinking water, and many animals exhibiting behavior of acute stress. Elephants looked extremely distressed, pacing back and forth, tigers were turning incessantly in their small cages and horses were tied up in the hot sun with no water or shade. None of the animals I observed had any enrichment at all. They looked dazed, uncomfortable and listless, like they had given up hope, their spirits broken.
In response to the growing anti-captivity movement in France, the Cirque Arlette Gruss has started a petition entreating customers to contact their lawmakes and pledge to support the circus and its use of wild animals. As of this publication date, the petition has a mere 1198 signatures.
“We know that civil disobedience is necessary to obtain liberation,” Sebastien told me. “We are going to disrupt the system.”
Cirque Arlette Gruss has not responded to emails or messages on their Facebook or Twitter accounts. If or when they do, I will be happy to post an update with their response.
List of countries and municipalities outlawing the use of wild animals in circuses:
An expanding list of worldwide circus bans and restrictions
Austria: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
Belgium: Nationwide ban on the use of most wild animals in circuses (Parrots and camel are classed as domestic)
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Nationwide ban on all animals in circuses
Bulgaria: Nationwide ban on certain wild animal species in circuses, variety shows and other entertainment facilities
Croatia: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses
Czech Republic: Nationwide ban on the use of certain species in circuses
Cyprus: Nationwide ban on all animals in circuses
Denmark: Nationwide ban on the use of certain species in circuses
Estonia: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses
Finland: Nationwide ban on the use of certain species in circuses
France: Local bans in 50 towns and cities
Germany: Local bans in more than 80 towns and cities
Greece: Nationwide ban on all animals in circuses
Hungary: Nationwide ban on the use of wild caught animals in circuses, the purchase and training of elephants and primates for circus performances and the purchase, training and use of CITES (Appendix 1) listed species in circuses
Ireland: Local bans on the use of animals in circuses in Drogheda, Dublin, Fingal, Galway City, Kildare, Monaghan, Moyle, South Dublin and Waterford
Latvia: Nationwide restrictions effectively banning the use of wild-caught animals
Macedonia: Nationwide ban on the use wild animals in circuses
Malta: Nationwide ban on all animals for performances, exhibitions, shows or training for the circus
The Netherlands: Nationwide ban on the use and transport of animals in circuses, with exemptions for certain, mostly domestic, species
Norway: Use of wild species effectively banned nationwide — positive list of permitted animals only includes domestic animals (apart from camels)
Poland: Nationwide ban on the use of wild-born animals in circuses
Portugal: Nationwide ban restricting the use of great apes in circuses and the acquisition and breeding of CITES listed species
Romania: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses (apart from certain exotic bird species and cetaceans)
Serbia: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses
Slovenia: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses
Spain: Local bans on the use of wild animals in circuses in more than 400 towns and cities including Barcelona
Sweden: Nationwide ban on the use of certain species in circuses
UK: Over 200 local authorities have bans on animal circuses (more than two thirds of these ban all performing animals, the remainder ban just wild animals). A commitment to ban the use of wild animals in circuses in England has yet to be enacted; Scotland has introduced a bill which is progressing through parliament
Ukraine: Nationwide ban on “mobile menageries” and the transportation of wild animals for use in circus performances
USA: 81 partial or full bans on performing animals in jurisdictions in the US, in 29 states, including Los Angeles and New York City, the two biggest markets.
Canada: Local bans on the use of animals in circuses in more than 30 municipal jurisdictions including Vancouver
Argentina: Local bans on the use of wild animals in circuses in over 20 cities including a ban in the city of Buenos Aires
Bolivia: Nationwide ban on the use of wild and domestic animals in circuses
Brazil: Local bans on the use of animals in circuses in 11 states and over 20 cities
Colombia: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses; Local ban on the use of animals in circuses in the capital, Bogota
Costa Rica: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
Ecuador: Nationwide ban on the use of native wild animals; restrictions on the use of exotic animals; ban on the import of both native and exotic wild animals with circuses
El Salvador: Nationwide ban on the “Income, use or abuse of wildlife species in all kinds of entertainment”
Guatemala: Nationwide ban on the use of animals in circuses
Mexico: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses
Panama: Nationwide ban prohibiting “entry of wild animals for use in static and travelling circuses and similar shows”
Paraguay: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
Peru: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses as well as a local ban on all animals in Magdalena del Mar
Australia: Local bans on the use of animals in circuses in several towns including Hobsons Bay, Surf Coast Shire, Parramata and Lismore
India: Nationwide ban on the use of certain species in circuses
Iran: Use of wild animals in circuses effectively banned nationwide (no permits issued)
Israel: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses
Lebanon: Nationwide ban on the use of certain species in circuses
Singapore: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses
Taiwan: Nationwide prohibition on the import or export of protected wildlife for circuses
Animals should not be incarcerated and exploited for profit and entertainment. It is cruel and inhumane. They belong in their natural habitat and if they are in danger there, in a non-profit sanctuary where they can live in peace, far from hunters and circus thugs.