Circus 1903: What Circuses Should Be

The elephants in Circus 1903 are grand. Majestic. They move with such grace, silence, beauty.

I sit in the Paris Las Vegas theater and watch these pachyderms take the stage and I’m overcome. It’s the first time I’ve seen elephants since I spoke about responsible elephant tourism in 2015 in my former home of Thailand.

Circus 1903 uses puppets to recreate elephants in a circus.

Watching them as they move across the stage, I am filled with love. Tears gather in my eyes and I fight to keep them from spilling over because the last thing I want is to be the only girl who cries at a circus. Because, really, who cries at a circus, right?

But, it’s hard not to. 


Because this is the first circus I have ever been to that doesn’t use actual animals in the show. The animals here are puppets. Gorgeous, majestic, beautiful puppets managed by expert puppeteers.

The men breathing life into these beings masterfully move the elephants, mimicking perfectly the movements of the animals I spent years with when I worked for Save Elephant Foundation/Elephant Nature Park.

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 25: Puppeteers perform with an elephant puppet named Queenie (L) and puppeteer Luke Chadwick-Jones operating a baby elephant puppet named Peanut during the opening night of "CIRCUS 1903" at Paris Las Vegas on July 25, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for CIRCUS 1903 At Paris Las Vegas) *** Local Caption *** Luke Chadwick-Jones

The baby elephant moves exactly like the baby elephants I observed, clumsily running and discovering his trunk for the first time.

Sitting in the audience, seeing these puppets recreate the animals responsible for my journey into this vegan life, it’s hard for me not to become emotional.

This is how it should be.

I recently interviewed Carrie Le Blanc, founder of Compassion Works International. She and her team were instrumental in the closing down of the 146-year-old Ringling Bros. and have also been the driving force behind numerous animal bans in traveling circuses over the years. As I watch, I wish that more people would embrace this sort of entertainment and the need of the organization to fight animals being used for our entertainment would cease to exist.

Sitting in that theater and seeing this reminds me that there is absolutely no need for animals to be a part of the circus.

The children in the crowd marvel and gasp when the puppets take the stage, towering over the performers thanks to stilts powering the puppeteers. They smile and squeal with delight when the baby trods onto the stage.

They don’t know a circus with live animals, and to them, it appears not to matter. They still love the show.

And, I love the show. Absolutely. Love.

Circus 1903 uses puppets to recreate elephants in a circus.

Aside from seeing the recreation of elephants in Las Vegas without the cruelty and exploitation, I love the performances. That I sit there with my palms sweaty as the talent executes acts I could never even attempt. I love the energy. In fact, it’s something I love so much and think you would love so much, I’m giving away a family pack of four tickets to the show. I want people to see that animals don’t make a circus and don’t need to be used for our entertainment.

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Photos courtesy Circus 1903

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Post a Comment

  • Jennifer
    Posted at 22:34h, 25 August Reply

    Love the idea of this show, the puppet animals look amazing and I would love to take my children to see them!! There is no reason for animals to be part of the show, it’s not fair to them, they don’t have a choice and the way they are treated is not at all humane.

  • Tina
    Posted at 23:13h, 25 August Reply

    Animals should be free& Wild as they are meant to be. So excited for this show!!!

  • Faith Bouchard
    Posted at 17:11h, 28 August Reply

    Animals shouldn’t be used in circuses because they were not meant to live their lives in unnatural (and often times abusive) conditions purely for our entertainment. They deserve to be free and happy, just like humans.

  • Heather
    Posted at 21:03h, 31 August Reply

    Animals should be free to live their lives and not be used for the entertainment of others. I wouldn’t go to a circus made up of human slaves.