March 4, 2021

The Monte-Carlo International Circus must stop using wild animals

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by Steve Williams From Care2

The Monte-Carlo International Circus has evolved over the years in many ways—except for its use of wild animals, and that has to end.

Called ”the biggest circus festival in the world“, the Monte-Carlo International Circus is an annual event that runs at the Chapiteau de l’Espace Fontvieille in , this year between January 17 and January 27. It boasts a dazzling array of human performers, including circus clowns, acrobats and contortionists. The event is so high-profile that Monaco’s royal family attended it’s opening. It’s also a key draw for tourists, who flock to Monaco every year to see the circus.

Unfortunately, this circus event also includes wild animal acts which animal welfare groups have called “barbaric” and “outdated”. This is also the subject of a Care2 petitionstarted by Care2 community member, Finley B, who says the performances are “horribly degrading” and that it is “time to end” this practice.

The Gärtner are among the animals slated to perform this year, a group of around seven Asian elephants that are rotated for different tours and venues. The Gärtner Family Elephants are one of the go-to elephant troupes across Europe, but they have also had their fair share of controversy that goes beyond the usual and very salient reasons why elephants should not be toured and placed in close confines.

Accusations over animal cruelty have dogged the group. These became particularly loud in 2011 when several of the elephants were stranded in Morocco for months when EU officials refused Gärtner’s elephants reentry to . Gärtner accused the EU of taking the elephants hostage and reportedly threatened to have the elephants put down if officials didn’t grant them reentry. Gärtner’s animals were eventually allowed back into France, but the legality of that move and whether rules were broken remains a topic of some debate.

Animal rights defenders have also pointed to specific areas of the Gärtner family show that are particularly harmful for the elephants. These include the much-advertised “elephant pyramid” which at best is an act of animal contortion no one needs to see and at worst could be fatal for the elephants and spectators should an elephant fall.

The Gärtner family has also come under fire for allowing untrained people to visit the elephants behind the scenes of the show, which in at least one incident has resulted in injury.

Among the program of other scheduled performers is the Martin Lacey, Jr. circus act, which involves around 26 trained big cats, like lions and tigers. Lacey, Jr. has made “animal protection” a tentpole to his business, stating that the troupe’s animals not only are well cared for but that they have a better quality of life than they would in the wild. He has campaigned heavily against legal attempts to bar animal performances in circuses. It’s also worth noting that the troupe readily highlights none of its big cats are taken from the wild and are instead reportedly bred via the extended family of cats at their disposal.

Animal rights advocates remain unconvinced. While some will acknowledge that Lacey, Jr. seems sincere in his attempts at guaranteeing animal welfare so far as he can within the circus performance setting, they contend that his efforts are undercut by the very fact that the animals are being used in this way at all.

Forcing animals to perform in circuses and training them to perform tricks that fall far outside their natural behavior is not giving the animals a chance to develop, as the Lacey circus claims. Critics say it is putting the animals through undue stress to perform unnatural feats that risk their safety, the safety of their trainers and that of the audience.

Animal rights defenders also accuse that even when there is no direct evidence of physical abuse, the often-invisible mental repercussions of this kind of training can be dramatic.

Also advertised for an appearance is the Marcel Kramer’s American bison show, which is much as it sounds. Kramer forces the bison to perform a range of tricks that, while perhaps impressive, are unarguably outside of its natural set of behaviors.

The appetite for animals in circuses has diminished considerably in the last few decades. As a result, many states and nations have banned or severely tightened restriction on wild animals in circuses. Even in Monaco, where the festival is a significant draw and a badge of honor for the wealthy locals, there is growing resistance to the use of wild animals.

Isn’t it time we said enough is enough and banned the use of animals as circus entertainment?


The time for wild animals in circuses is over. Sign and share the Care2 petition today and call on France and Monaco to finally ban wild animals from its circuses!

And if, like Finley B, you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. Youll find Care2s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

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