Circus Bouglione drops trainer after ADI footage reveals 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.”