entryIt was a big day in the little village. Two sets of visitors showed up.

On one side of the street, an itinerant mattress vendor. All in all, a quiet stay.

On the other side of the street, a circus. It was a big one for our town. There’s a very small family circus that comes through in the spring, with just a couple of animals, and even the small kids of the family perform as clowns. The very young audience members love it because such little clowns aren’t scary and in their very protected lives they cannot imagine doing such outrageous things as performing.

I don’t know how these circuses survive, because they draw only a couple dozen spectators. Tickets for this one were €5 for children and €10 for adults, but the smaller circuses charge less. Can they even buy gas to get to the next town, let alone feed themselves and their animals?

setting up
Setting up

We went to the circus during the magical years, even though the entire situation made me want to be an ostrich to not see how poor the performers were. Little ones see only the spectacle. Their eyes sparkle though the finery is faded and fake. Lucky them.

This circus had a bigger menagerie than some.

animals 1

camel

llama
I kind of laugh over the vineyard in the background. Like, is it possible to get a shot without grape vines around here? No!

There was even a lion. I wasn’t going to the show, but I did pop by to see what state the lion was in. A male, with a big mane. That was all that was big about him. His ribs showed. He continued to sleep as I snapped. A family in a rickety rusty-white camionette pulled up. I guess the kids were in the back (probably without seats, and thus without seatbelts). They oohed and aahed over the lion.

lion“Is he big?” asked the children, around 6 and 8 years old.

“He’s enormous,” the mother said.

“One of the biggest I’ve ever seen,” the father assured them.

They happily moved on to examine the other animals.

I was glad that this family, who seemed as poor as the circus clan, were having an exciting morning. But I was sad they didn’t know that lions should look like this:

Lionesses
Ladies lunching at Maasai Mara. You could hear the bones crack.

Anyway, for two days, the circus blasted music from early in the morning until their show started at 6 p.m. In another indication of their budget constraints, they had only a few, very dated songs. “Nuit de Folie” and “Gonna Fly Now” aka the theme song from the first “Rocky” movie played on repeat.

They were quiet at night, so whatever. Unfortunately, the wind was marin–which meant that the overripe odors of barnyard mixed with zoo wafted into the village.

They stayed six days. I dropped coins into the metal donation box for animal feed in front of the lion’s cage. They clanked in a way that made it clear there weren’t other coins in there. I don’t see how these folks earn a living with two shows in six days. Obviously that is just one of the many reasons I’m not in the circus business. Though some would argue…

circus signWhat do you think? Little circuses are wonderful and quaint or an ambulatory PETA case?

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15 thoughts on “The Circus Comes to Town

  1. Little circuses are old, but not quaint if they feature animals. I’m horrified, really, that the poor lion is there. Circus animals always remind me of the many animals, and humans, who suffer mistreatment silently and I wonder how supposedly sophisticated places like France, Ireland, the US, etc can allow this to endure. I understand the circus families need to make a living (albeit a paltry one in many cases), but do too many of us look away? It’s a moral dilemma.

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  2. There is no question that travelling circuses with animals should be banned. Given the popularity of circus schools in France (ie where kids learn mainly acrobatics, especially over the summer holidays) I am amazed that these pathetic family circuses with their random mixture of exotic animals have not just disappeared, let alone be legislated out of existance. People these days are just as happy to see juggling, acrobatics, high wire, trapeze etc, but I guess that requires lots of work on the part of the performers… I might be wrong but I don’t think there are animals in the annual Christmas circus extravaganza organised by the Monacan royal family. Travelling circuses with animals do not have a place in modern life, and wild animals in circuses do not have a place in modern life.

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  3. While driving through France…we have been so surprised to see all the traveling circuses….never stopped to check any out. It never occurred to me that they had animals. I thought there would be clowns…which I don’t like and acrobats…oh, and maybe a clever monkey or two. Caged big cats other large animals is disturbing for me. It is so not their natural state. I’m claustrophobic and the thought of being caged is terrifying. That’s me projecting of course….

    Ali

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  4. Few things make me sadder than these small Circuses, honestly. What kind of life is that, where your children have to perform for a living, in Europe at that. If they have Animals other then well-fed Horses I would call the police on them, to be honest. The Lion has nothing to gain, it was not his choice of a lifestyle.

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    1. Not sure about calling the police-they needed the OK of the mairie to set up. And being poor in France is not at all like being poor in, say, the U.S. For example, they (notably the kids) would have health care. The U.S. has made huge improvements in that area in the past few years, but they are still far from France, where health care is considered a basic human right.

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  5. I do find the circuses sad. But this is what poverty looks like. People have been doing their best to care for themselves, their children and their animals for thousands of years. It’s not always a pretty sight when there’s not enough to meet basic needs.

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    1. I have no doubt they love their animals. Is what is worrisome the poverty? The Cirque d’Italie has lions, no doubt just as sad, all things considered. It’s a tough nut to crack.

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  6. One can only hope that the animal side of the business will ‘die out’. Zoo s, to me ,are no better and the animals should not be contained and not be in their proper home.
    Easily said, as we all know that humans are not always in kindly conditions either.

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  7. I would not go see a circus that used wild animals as performers. The life of a caged wild animal, particularly one in an impoverished, travelling show, is very, very sad…as exemplified by the ribs-showing lion pictured above. There are animal sanctuaries around the world that will provide a much better life for “retired” circus wild animals.

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