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Wild animals suffer in Danish circuses 


Several years ago, Denmark banned the use of wild animals in circuses. Despite the ban, elephants (both Asian and African), zebras, sea lions, camels and alpacas are still used in several Danish circuses.


The living conditions for these animals are horrific and far from natural. Forced to perform without breaks during the circus season, they are 'broken' mentally and sometimes even forced to perform despite illnesses.  The vehicles used for transporting the animals are often small and uncomfortable causing more distress. Furthermore large animals like elephants are chained up without any form of mental stimulation and as a result they get bored, stressed and frustrated. They live in conditions that are unnatural for wild animals; far from their natural habitats and food sources, and social settings. For instance elephants live in large groups in the wild. Many of the animals also come from entirely different physical conditions making it hard for their bodies to cope with the harsh weathers of Northern Europe.


The Danish TV-channel TV2 has recently told the story of an elephant from Circus Benneweis, who has been performing throughout the summer despite a visible abscess on her hip. The elephant, who is one of the circus’ three elephants, suffers from a discharging and infected abscess on its left hip. The information is derived from the Danish free newspaper metroXpress who has asked several veterinarians to comment on the case. “The abscess on this elephant is clearly infected and will consequently feel discomfort and possible pain from this”, says Mads Bertelsen who works as a vet at Copenhagen Zoo. His assessment is shared by another vet who states that the elephant should be kept calm and treated with pain relieving medicine to allow the abscess to heal. All the veterinarians agree that the abscess has likely taken months to get to its present stage and will consequently also take long to heal. Henrik Hagbard, who has treated elephants in Zimbabwe, says: “It is not unlikely that it will take months for an abscess of this size to heal”. But as Mads Bertelsen comments: “Even though the elephants are treated well, they never have a day off, even when they are sick.”, and this is an issue that has been witnessed at Circus Benneweis before.


Nine years ago an elephant named Tutti was made perform despite the fact that she was on antibiotics and a veterinarian had recommended that she’d rest instead of performing. The circus still made her perform, and on a fatal night another elephant, Mickey, who was performing with her got so distressed, that he threw a small metal stool towards the audience and ran out of the circus, as to make people aware of his friend’s illness. Tutti died the following night.


Danish law The use of wild animals in entertainment has been banned by Danish law since 1962 but unfortunately the law allows for exceptions, typically allowing the use of elephants, sea lions and horses in circuses. The circus industry justifies the use of wild animals in circuses by claiming that they have been domesticated through the years, and that animals used in circuses are treated well. The case of untreated elephants performing in Danish circuses speaks of a different truth. By signing this petition you are helping to create awareness about the ill conditions of wild animals in circuses in Denmark, and agreeing to the statement that wild animals simply don’t belong in entertainment.


You can impact the case further by not supporting circuses that use wild animals in their show or expressing your concern to circuses nearby you that have wild animals performing.


Thank you for your time and support!  


Letter to
Prime Minister Helle Thorning Schmidt
Minister for Food and Animal Welfare Mette Gjerskov
Member of the Parliament Soeren Espersen
and 3 others
EU Commissioner Janez Potocnik
The Danish Red-Green Alliance Per Clausen
Member of EU Parliament Dan Joergensen
We, the undersigned, urge you to work for the freedom of circus animals. Animals in circuses live miserable lives, forced to perform and stay in a small transportation cage – all of which is completely against these animals’ instincts and in no way satisfy their natural needs. Animals should not have to suffer in the name of cheap entertainment. Council relating to the keeping of special animals have advocated a ban, and it would be shameful to ignore their recommendations

The ban is supported by all animal welfare groups as well as the director of Copenhagen Zoo.
Denmark is known as a country that gives priority to high animal welfare and has banned wild animals in circus. Yet, we see elephants in chains in several circuses. Circus Arena, for example, has camels, zebras, sea lions, alpacas and the extremely endangered African Elephant and uses all of these animals as part of their show.

Many of these animals have their natural habitat in warm countries and find it difficult to live in colder environments. Especially the African elephant is suffering with the heavy snow and cold temperatures in Northern Europe.

In addition Circus Benneweis have presented the one show after another this summer with a sick elephant. One of the three elephants have a weeping and inflamed abscess on his left hip.æder-i-cirkus.html?forside

It has been noticed that the former Danish minister of justice believed that the animals should continue as slaves in the circus. It disappoints us greatly that a minister of justice, who claims that high welfare COUNTS may hesitate with regard to such an important issue. We are confident that you will change your opinion about allowing animals in circus if you actually experienced for yourself their living conditions, from being broken mentally and forced to perform against your own instincts again and again to the endless time spent on the road while being transported in a trailer so small that the animals cannot even turn around. There are many shameful facts about the life of circus animals.

We beg you earnestly to not support this cruelty by giving additional financial support to the circus with wild animals. Please do not fund or encourage circus with animals in any way.

We urge you to visit to learn more about the horrific life of circus animals, and why animal free circuses is the only humane solution.. Several countries have banned animals in circuses. Denmark should do the same.

Please read

Thank you for taking your time to read this letter.