Circus Listens To Animal Lovers And Ends Elephant Show
The circus's decision affected one elephant in particular: Vana Mana, a 43-year-old female who has been in circus captivity since the 1970s.
Circus director Francesco Bouglione maintains that, in general, Vana Mana is healthy enough to perform. In fact, he stated that the circus has canceled the act - booting both Vana Mana and her trainer, Lars Holscher - for precautionary reasons only.
But Vana Mana's past merits more than precaution. Animal Defenders International (ADI) documented continuous abuse of the senior elephant during her stint in the Great British Circus. In 2009, ADI obtained undercover footage of Vana Mana being beaten by both Holscher and another circus employee, as well as being chained and immobilized for long periods of time.
Now, animal advocates are demanding Vana Mana retire from performing altogether, citing her deteriorating medical condition. Animalsace has reported that Vana Mana suffers from both arthritis and trunk paralysis and that she has significant difficulty moving at all.
"The animals are not volunteers to be in the circus!" wrote the group on its Facebook page.
Vana Mana's condition could stem from a number of mental and physical stressors. Circus elephants are forced to assume abnormal positions - standing on tiny stools, for example - for extended periods of time, which place excess pressure on the joints and alters the structure of the elephants' feet.
If an elephant is forced to repeat unnatural tricks, his or her trunk can also suffer damage. In fact, even tricks as simple as shaking the head back and forth can contribute to trunk paralysis - one of Vana Mana's afflictions.
Many circus elephants are also extraordinarily anxious. Circus elephants often exhibit "head bobbing," a common sign of mental distress, Dr. Lori Marino, executive director of the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy, previously told The Dodo.
"From the level of sound and commotion surrounding the elephants on display, it would not be too much of an overstatement to say they are losing their minds," she said.
And if an elephant is forced to perform for years with no reprieve, that damage becomes all the more severe.
The end of Vana Mana's Cirque Bouglione show is certainly a huge victory for Animalsace, which has protested passionately against circus cruelty since 2009. On Sunday, a group of 30 protesters passed out leaflets to circus attendees outside the Bouglione tent - a measure that has clearly made an impact.
However, Vana Mana's future is still in jeopardy. Although Bouglione has removed her from his own circus lineup, she may find herself forced to perform somewhere else. Now, her ultimate fate is up to Holscher.
To help circus elephants like Vana Mana, learn what actions you can take when a circus visits your town.