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French mayor wants travelling circus with wild animals off town land

The mayor of Narbonne says the town ‘vehemently opposes’ to the use of wild animals in such events

The tops of a colourful circus tent against a blue sky

The circus has been set up near Narbonne without Mairie authorisation, prompting the Ville de Narbonne to lodge a formal court complaint against it (Image for illustration only) Pic: lunamarina / Shutterstock

The mayor of Narbonne (Aude) has lodged a court complaint against a travelling circus near the town  and condemned it for its use of wild animals.

The Cirque de Venise was set up, without authorisation, in the Creissel service station near the Narbonne Arena and exhibition hall on Monday (March 7).

The Narbonne authorities have said they are opposed to this “illegal occupation of the public way” and have condemned the circus’ use of wild animals in its acts. It has lodged a formal complaint.

The Cirque de Venise has appeared in Aix-en-Provence, Nîmes, Sète, Saint-Laurent-de-la-Salanque and Perpignan since the start of the year. It arrived in Narbonne this week, and has posted on its Facebook page that shows are set to begin this Saturday for nine days, and that the circus tents will remain in place for three weeks.

But the mayor of Narbonne, Didier Mouly, has said that the circus’ presence is illegal and that it is causing a nuisance for users of the nearby exhibition hall space.

The circus presence also risks clashing with the final of the Volleyball European Cup (Coupe d’Europe de Volleyball), which is set to take place in the Arena in three weeks’ time. The tents and caravans are currently taking up the 3,500-space car park that the attendees will be expecting to use.

As a result, the mayor has now lodged a complaint with the judicial court of Narbonne, “requesting the departure of this [circus] structure as soon as possible”.

The office has also condemned the circus’ use of wild animals. In a statement, the Ville de Narbonne wrote: “This is a practice against which the Ville de Narbonne is vehemently opposed.”

The circus has previously used horses, dogs, tigers, and lions in its acts, which also include music and gravity-defying acrobatics.

Mayoral officials have visited the site to take photos, note down vehicle licence plate numbers, make a note of any alleged damage, and also claimed there had been an illegal connection to a water source.

The city is now awaiting the court’s decision before making its next move.

‘We have always bowed to their wishes’

The circus organisers, the Landri family, say they have submitted requests for official permission from the mairie over the past three years, including in recent months, but have found it “impossible to obtain”.

Steve Landri, from the family that manages the Cirque de Venise, told local news: “I have been coming here for 30 years. We have applied to be elsewhere in the city, but everything is always refused…We offered to change the dates…refused. 

“We offered to set up in the big, empty car park behind the theatre…refused. There’s also the car park in front of the theatre, where a fairground was a few days ago…refused. The mayor, who knows our family because we originally come from Aude, did not respond to our requests for a meeting. 

“It's not right. There has been no possibility of a discussion. So I am forced to occupy the public space without an agreement.”

The last time the circus visited Narbonne, it agreed to not use its wild animals in the acts, to respect the Mairie’s wishes.

Even Landri said: “We have always bowed to the wishes of the mairie to maintain a good relationship. But apparently, that means nothing. Look at where we are today!”

In 2019, the mairie unanimously adopted a motion to ban wild animals from circuses, and to prioritise the installation of circuses without animals.

Wild animal circus ban

It comes as a new law will ban wild animals from circuses and shows in France, with around 800 wild animals and 25 marine mammals set to be freed within five years. The law provides for the complete ban of wild animals being used in travelling circus shows within seven years.

Last year, a circus in France replaced its wild animals with holograms, including holograms of dancing bears and whales, projected onto a screen on stage.

Founders Sandrine and Joseph Bouglione, who previously used tigers and camels in their shows, said: “The idea [of the holograms] is to show that we can be entertained and amazed by the beauty and charisma of wild animals while leaving them in peace in their natural habitats."

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