For dozens of years, bears were forced to perform in a frame of festivals, circus shows or even private events in France. These animals were paraded by their owners – the so-called 'montreur d’ours' – on a rope or chain several hours per day and were made to perform tricks in front of an audience.
From an animal welfare point of view, these kinds of shows are neither of educational nor artistic value. The animals are forced to travel with their owners for almost the whole year while being confined in cages or chained in the back of the vehicle. While during the shows, the bears are repeatedly being made to do non-natural tricks such as, e.g. balancing on balls, jumping through tyres or made to 'wrestle' with their trainers or interact with the audience by force.
As a result, some of the bears suffer from mental and physical diseases (e.g. arthrosis, disorders of the spine, etc.). Besides, these shows are a danger to the safety of the public. Often people are invited by the bear owners during the shows to come close, touch and feed the bears, while the bear is muzzled and held on a leash, or being kept behind a simple wire only.
Joint initiative for legal change
In 2019, and together with the French NGOs AVES France and Fondation Brigitte Bardot, FOUR PAWS demanded an end of the sad 'montreur d’ours' tradition and offered to rescue the #SaddestBears of France. The initiative proved successful – in the same year the prior French Minister of the Ecological and Solidary Transition, Elisabeth Borne, promised to improve the welfare of captive wildlife in France.
Finally, in November 2021, and encouraged by several animal welfare organizations, the French Parliament approved a new animal welfare bill which bans the training and use of bears and wolves for entertainment and show purposes as of end of 2023. Furthermore, a general ban on the use of wild animals in circuses will become effective as of 2028, and the breeding of wild animals in circuses will be banned as of 2023.
A milestone in 2023
Thanks to the advocacy work by FOUR PAWS and local animal welfare organizations, a legal ban on the use of bears and wolves for show and entertainment purposes will become effective in France as of the end of 2023. A corresponding animal welfare bill was adopted in November 2021.
Another huge step forward to a better future for the #SaddestBearsFrance: Recently the French National Assembly debated and adopted a new animal welfare bill! Progress was made with the vote for a ban on wild animals in traveling circuses by 2026 but also with the decision to end the training and use of bears and wolves for entertainment for good by 2023!
FOUR PAWS fully supports this ban and offers to rescue the #SaddestBears of France. Now it is up to the French Senate to examine the text and finally approve and pass the new animal welfare bill which is expected to happen in March this year already.
In frame of a press conference, the French Minister of Ecology, Barbara Pompili, announces to implement a ‘gradual ban’ on wild animals in travelling circuses. Under the terms of the ban, wild animals including bears, tigers, lions and elephants will no longer be allowed in travelling circuses.
A new bill was introduced by seven deputies in France, aiming to improve living conditions of wild and domestic animals and to fight their mistreatment. The bill includes banning shows using bears and wolves, as well as 'the acquisition, possession and keeping' of wild animals in circuses starting from January 1st, 2026.
FOUR PAWS especially criticizes the cruel exploitation of wild animals for show purposes, and how several bears and wolves are forced to perform silly, unnatural tricks at festivals, circus shows and private celebrations in France. Therefore we welcome this new development and we strongly encourage the Members of the French Parliament – from the National Assembly and the Senate – to adopt the legislative proposal, which would be a major step forward for animal welfare in France!
Representatives of FOUR PAWS, Aves France and Fondation Brigitte Bardot handed over the interim petitions report to the members of the French National Assembly, Aurore Bergé and Laëtitia Romeiro Dias. Both of whom will forward the message to the French Minister of the Environment, Élisabeth Borne. So far a total of 168,092 people have spoken out in favor of banning bear shows in France.
Further two of the #SaddestBears France (called Glasha and Bony) have been seized by the French authorities, because of their very poor keeping conditions and ongoing protests. Both bears have been accommodated in sanctuaries in France and Germany.
In collaboration with the two French NGO’s, AVES France and Fondation Brigitte Bardot, FOUR PAWS launches an international petition for an end of sad 'montreur d’ours' tradition in France.
One of the most popular 'montreur d’ours', Sacha Poliakov, was banned from displaying his bear Micha in public shows after an inspection found that the bear suffered from severe health problems and was being held under poor conditions. Micha has been handed over to an animal shelter in France..
Upon initiative of the two French NGOs, AVES France and Fondation Brigitte Bardot, the French Minister of the Ecological and Solidary Transition, Elisabeth Borne, promises to make the welfare of captive wildlife in France one of her priority projects, and announces to soon present an action plan to improve conditions for wild animals in captivity.
Beginning of 2019
Several bears are still being made by their owners, the 'montreur d’ours', to perform silly, unnatural tricks at medieval festivals, circus shows and private celebrations in France.
18th & 19th century
Originating mainly from the French region of Ariège in the French Pyrenees, the 'montreur d’ours' profession became popular throughout France.