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The captive animals of Le Grand Cirque de Rome are loved, well fed, have shelter and an on-site vet. As a result, on initial view, they are in good health.

Tigers in their ‘natural’ environment

These tigers have been with the Le Grand Cirque de Rome since birth (the circus started in 1857) and have recently reproduced. Which is a good indication of a satisfactory level of health and well-being.

So why should we be opposed to wild animals in this captivity?

Wild animals in captivity

The main issue, from an animal welfare point of view, is that circus animals spend long periods in small enclosures, traveling long distances and are exposed to unnatural stimulus such as artificial lighting, loud sounds, uncomfortable temperatures and forced proximity to humans.

This creates a physiological stress reaction, taking them away from their homeostatic state, and into the so-called “fight or flight” response.

According to their published events, since January 9th Le Grand Cirque de Rome has visited 12 locations, completing 49 performances. Meaning on average, they change location every 10 days, and perform 2-3 days per week.

126 days/12 locations = 10.5 days per location

126 days/49 performances = 2.57 performances per week

Distance Le Grand Cirque de Rome has traveled since Jan 9th

As per their press release for 2019, Le Grand Cirque de Rome visits 90 villages during their season.

And as reported in the press (La Dauphine, June 2017), has 45 animals including 7 lions, 8 tigers, 7 camels, 2 zebras, 4 llamas, 5 horses, 7 pony’s and 4 monkey’s who travel for 6 months of the year. Resting for 6 months close to Paris & Haute Savoie.

This 6 month schedule, gives the circus less than 2 days to set up, perform, pack down and relocate to the next location before setting-up again.

178 days/90 locations = 1.97 days per location

What’s the deal?

Based on their schedule to date for 2019 and last year’s published performance information, they began on January 24th and will finish at the end October.

They have visited 12 locations in 116 days, an average of 1 location every 10 days, leaving 78 locations in 180 days to go. Here’s the maths.

180 days/78 locations = 2.30 days per location

Indicating that these animals will spend at least 296 days in a confined environment, travelling and performing.

Below is the current and predicted schedule based on posts from their Facebook:

Le Grand Cirque de Rome 2019 schedule

The problem: too much stress

Any mammal, human or animal, living in a constant state of motion, change of environment and performance for 296 days of the year, without rest, will as a result, experience chronic, long-term stress.

Over time, this manifests itself in many physical and emotional ways including inhibited growth and reproduction rates, reduced body weight, reduced behavioural complexity, increased aggression and fearfulness and can lead to self-injurious behaviour.

Animals in captivity also suffer from an inability to express natural species specific behaviours, which reduces development of their sensory and cognitive abilities.

In regards to tigers this includes maintaining a solitary life, patrolling their territory and hunting at night.

The argument from the other side is below.

From Cirque de Rome: elephants performing ‘natural’ behaviours in captivity?

I have chosen not to speak about animal cruelty in regards to training and teaching animals to perform tricks as it is incorrect to make an assumption without proof. Many circuses’s now follow strict regulations for animal welfare and training and work with food and positive reinforcement.

The solution: improved conditions

This is a hugely complex situation and one that deeply affects both animals and humans.

From the human perspective, the Dumas family has run this circus for over 100 years. It is their life and livelihood. There is no plan B for their family so how can we consider the health and well-being of both animals and humans for a fair and sustainable future?

Here are some ideas to suggest to your local visiting circus and Mairie:

  • Reduce the number of performances and locations each year and establish a maximum number of locations with sufficient space for animals to explore freely on suitable substrates (i.e grass, hay, soil) and with reduced noise and light pollution.
  • Provide better environmental enrichment strategies, allowing animals to express natural behaviours when not performing.
  • Transition away from using animals in performances and focus more on human performance. Keeping the animals in a suitable environment for educational purposes only.

An argument for tigers in captivity

After over a century of decline, only 4,000 tigers remain in the wild with all populations considered endangered or critically endangered.

The main risk to tigers are poaching (for Chinese medicine), retaliatory killings and habitat loss as a direct consequence of human expansion. Link

And although wild tiger population numbers are currently on the rise, much work still needs to be done to raise awareness about the issues they face. Link.

While circuses, zoos or sanctuaries are not perfect wildlife environments, they provide an opportunity for up-close observation and for humans to form an emotional connection with these animals.

It’s what we do with this experience and the information we seek out that will help make a difference to their future. You can make a better life for yourself and our planet with your choices.

To date, 26 countries have banned wild animals in circuses, including:

  • Austria
  • Bolivia
  • Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • Columbia
  • Costs Rica
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • El Salvador
  • Estonia
  • Greece
  • Guatemala
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy (ironically where Le Grand Cirque du Rome is from)
  • Luxembourg
  • Macedonia
  • Malta
  • Mexico
  • The Netherlands
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Romania
  • Scotland
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia

The UK is currently implementing a new law change and Madrid is the first Spanish city to ban wild animals in circuses (let’s hope bullfighting is next!)

While is great to ban wild animals in circuses, this action must be accompanied by a plan for relocation of the animals to an improved facility and sufficient compensation for the owners, or they risk living in forgotten captivity or worse.

Keep reading to find out how you can help!


How you can help captive wild animals:

  • Educate your children (and yourself) about nature, wildlife and why it’s important to reduce our consumption and waste. There is no planet B.
  • Don’t pay money to any activities that use captive animals for entertainment (at home or away). Your money pays their salaries.
  • Write to your local Mayor or Government official, expressing your concern for activities which use captive animals for entertainment and your disagreement with them being in your town.
  • Start a petition on sites like change.org to raise awareness about the issues facing captive wildlife. Click here to protest against animals in circuses in the region of Mont Blanc, France (as seen in the video above)
  • Reduce your consumption and waste of natural resources.
  • Follow this blog for more resources and positive ideas for positive action!

RESOURCE: want more info on this issue and what you can do to help. Download this guide which contains all the facts, an action plan and sample letters.

Your choice matters and you ALWAYS have a choice.