Stop Circus Suffering

Brutal past catches up with circus elephant trainer

Circus Bouglione drops trainer after ADI footage reveals elephant abuse

Great British Circus elephant abuse

In a dramatic move, Circus Bouglione in France has dropped notorious elephant trainer Lars Holscher. It follows protests and negative publicity after ADI undercover  video was seen of abuse of Holscher’s elephants when the circus toured Great Britain a few years ago.

ADI’s hidden cameras filmed Holscher’s act in 2009, when he was touring in the Great British Circus with his three elephants, Vana Mana, Sonja and Delhi.  ADI exposed a staggering level of casual violence: elephants hit in the face with a metal elephant hook, broom, brush, pitchfork; a worker cruelly twisting an elephant’s tail.  The elephants are seen and heard on screen afraid, retreating and crying out.

Like many caught in the act, Holscher has denied involvement in the abuse and tried to smear those who exposed the cruelty.  Yet, the film shows Holscher himself hitting an elephant with a metal bar; using a metal ankus to jab and hook the elephants, including in the mouth; keeping the elephants chained, barely able to move, for 11 hours a day (unnoticed by inspectors and UK MPs were told the elephants were not chained at all); using a concealed hook to control the elephants during performances. One of the elephants, Delhi, was found to be suffering from osteoarthritis and was clearly lame, yet continued to be used in a ‘pyramid’ act, with another elephant standing on her.

At the time, the treatment of the elephants was condemned by many experts in a special ADI ministerial report but Holscher continued to use the elephants.  Dr Mel Richardson, a renowned wild animal vet with 40 years experience with captive elephants, noted:  “Sonja, Vana Mana, and Delhi are being caused unnecessary suffering…. the day-to-day existence of these elephants is a living hell.”

The revelations prompted the UK’s Department of Environment, Food & Agriculture to hold a public consultation on the use of animals in circuses – 95.5% of respondents supported a ban on wild animals in circuses.  The British Government promised a ban.  In 2011, ADI again exposed the savage abuse of a circus elephant in Britain – Anne with Bobby Roberts Circus.  As a result, British MPs voted unanimously for the Government to bring forward a ban.  Legislation was drafted in 2013 but never passed.  At the 2015 election 94% of MPs stood on manifesto commitments to ban wild animals in circuses (Conservative, Labour, Green, DUP).

Since ADI exposed him, Holscher has appeared with several circuses and even filmmakers all over Europe including France, Germany, Slovakia, Latvia, Sweden, and Denmark.  Delhi and Sonja have now died, and so Vana Mana is alone and does not have the comfort of their company.

Franck Schrafstetter, President of Code Animal, who ADI is working with in France, said: “Lars Holscher is not an isolated case: training sessions are inherently violent and completely incompatible with the animal’s well-being. Forcing wild animals to perform makes them a product of consumerism and hastens the disappearance of their species in the wild”.

ADI President Jan Creamer says:  “Governments have failed these animals.  A trainer and his staff were caught on film violently abusing elephants in one EU country but when exposed, he simply moved across a border.  Laws to protect these animals have been promised in the UK and many EU countries have banned animal circuses – this shows that we need Europe wide protection of these animals.”


  • Donate and ensure ADI investigators keep exposing the suffering
  • If Lars Holscher is on tour near you, let ADI know
  • Contact your political representative and urge them to press for measures to prohibit animal circus acts


  1. Janette Mejia · 20 January 2016 at 1:43a

    Despicable! Government and public apathy is what is iThe global campaign to end the suffering of animals in circuses
    Stop Circus Suffering is a major campaign by Animal Defenders International to end the suffering of animals in circuses. Built on the hard-hitting evidence of our undercover investigations, ADI runs awareness campaigns; lobbies governments and municipalities; and works with partner groups. The campaign has seen many successes including the closure of circuses, rescue of animals, and local and national bans – to date, twenty seven countries have taken measures to prohibit animal circuses!

    Get involved and help circus animals today!

  2. Janette Mejia · 20 January 2016 at 1:43a

    Despicable! Apathy and public disregard for succering circus animals is what is keeping these circus’ in business. Elephants are being mistreated everyday and people just keep buying tickets! Now is the time to shut this industry down! Everyone needs to wake up and refuse to believe that there is any good coming from live animal acts. Circus people will just have to find a better way to make a living..

  3. susan gordon · 20 January 2016 at 1:43a


  4. Debbie Hill · 20 January 2016 at 1:43a


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