Jon is not from a zoo in a country at war. We rescued him from a circus in France in June 2020.
Does #BanCircusAnimals in France mean to wait until they are all dead?
Jon is not from a zoo in a country at war. We rescued him from a circus in France in June 2020.
Does #BanCircusAnimals in France mean to wait until they are all dead?
Jon is not from a zoo in a country at war. We rescued him from a circus in France in June 2020.
Does #BanCircusAnimals in France mean to wait until they are all dead?
Jon is not from a zoo in a country at war. We rescued him from a circus in France in June 2020.
Does #BanCircusAnimals in France mean to wait until they are all dead?
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Saving Jon, a lion who suffered agonies, from a circus in France

Mutilated, starved, shut in, transported, subjugated … That’s what Jon will have known all his life. We have saved him from the circus that had been exploiting him. The repeated lies of the veterinary services are more and more flagrant.
Jon has escaped from hell and we shall never let him return.
But how many others are still there?

Just skin and bones

Jon has just been saved and we have been entrusted to look after him by the Procurator of Évreux and the agents of the French Office for Biodiversity (OFB) of Eure whom we thank for this collaboration started 2 years ago. He is in an even worse condition than lions in zoos in countries devastated by war. Yet he was in a circus in France!

What are the authorities doing?

We have been following their ordeal for two years and all that time the authorities responsible for the welfare of the animals and checking on them regularly have done absolutely nothing. To the press, the prefecture of Eure said on the day of the seizure that the animals were “ generally healthy “.

Four lionesses, Jon’s former fellow prisoners, Hannah, Patty, Celeste and Marli, are still in the hands of the trainer. We filmed them too from 2018 until last March. We are lodging a complaint in their name!

First steps into a comfortable future

On reaching our partner, the refuge Tonga Terre d’Accueil, Jon, torpid from the journey, finally arrives in his enclosure. The ground is so soft and gentle under his paws! His expression, astonished but still fearful, is heartbreaking. There is a trough of water for him. But he doesn’t know what it is and knocks it over. His paws ‘scratch’ and seem to want to move it but they can’t. There is no sound of claws. Suddenly it dawns on us: he has been declawed! Then he lowers his head and takes the trough in his mouth. He bites so hard that it makes a screeching noise. These sounds reflect his agony. He has no canine teeth left: all his teeth have been ground down to the pulp. These are his first acts on leaving the cage in which he has been transported: seeking to relieve the dreadful pain.

Jon shows the stigmata of the mutilations and acts of cruelty that he has suffered for years with no respite. The torture he has endured is that of all circus lions, majestic animals reduced to the status of puppets used purely for entertainment. And even what weak legislation exists to protect them is not complied with, because the authorities responsible turn a blind eye. Circuses are way of mistreating animals legally ... and as a result they die.

Muriel Arnal, founding president of One Voice

Claws and teeth pulled out, starved ...

That’s what he has suffered in addition to hunger: mutilations. There is no doubt that they were carried out in order to make it easier to subjugate him. When he arrives he is a young lion with no teeth, with no claws, with no strength, lying prostrate in a corner as if he has lost the will to live. The truth is far from the claptrap of the trainers who seek to justify captivity as providing a better quality of life in wagons far from the poachers hunting trophies in Africa! Jon is on the verge of death and permanently suffering! The teams from Natuurhulpcentrum, our Belgian partners who have come to help us provide initial care, are still in shock. Jon has open wounds on his tail and a lot of scars, the skin on his belly is hanging down, his ribs are visible … Who knows what other abuse he has suffered?

I have worked on the issue of wild animals in circuses for 16 years, yet I was shocked to see the condition that Jon is in. He is extremely underweight; it will become more clear in time whether this is either a result of inadequate feeding or an underlying health condition. I am delighted that he is now in a place of safety where his health can be examined and addressed properly, and we look forward to working with OneVoice and other partners to devise a plan to relocate him to a lifetime care facility in due course. Jon’s condition is proof, once again, that circuses are no place for wild animals.

Dr. Chris Draper, head of Animal Welfare & Captivity, Born Free

A gradual improvement

The first days at the refuge, the metal trough has been replaced by a tub fixed in such a way that Jon can drink. As he is suffering terribly and has no teeth he is fed with small pieces of food. It is a very gradual return to eating, in fact, because a ‘normal’ quantity of food could kill him.

He now takes pleasure in playing with the ball and the branches that have been provided to enrich his daily life by a team looking after him. He has also discovered his exterior enclosure, which is open to the sky, and has felt the sun’s rays on his scrawny fur for the first time. Despite the uncertainly of the outcome, since numerous medical checks will have to be carried out, it is already easy to see that his condition is improving.

One Voice is grateful to her partners: the Born Free Foundation, the rescue centres Tonga Terre d’accueil and NaturuumHulpCentruum.

A hearing is expected to take place at a later date, because unfortunately the fact that Jon has been seized does not affect the outcome of the trial in any way. We shall fight to the end for Jon not to return to the hell that he has endured.

What a contrast between a circus’ glitter and glamour on stage and the sadness off stage! During the 40 years we are trying to give animals a new and better life, we encountered a lot of misery. But nothing compares to Jon, the skinny lion we helped saving in France. Almost no teeth, lesions all over his body and obviously no proper diet for some time. How sad! But after his rescue, seeing Jon in his new temporary enclosure in Tonga Terre, we got hope. Still reacting on the surroundings, we thing mentally Jon is still ok. It will take some time, but thanks to the cooperation with our one-voice-collegues, Jon will one day be the king of the jungle again!

Sil Janssen - president and founder of the Natuurhulpcentrum
June 10th 2020 - 7:05pm

In reply to the prefecture of the Eure, following the seizure of the lion Jon

Following the distribution of the images of the rescue of the lion Jon, the prefecture of the Eure has published a press release.  However it seems that its services are not in possession of the full facts even though our first complaint against the Cirque de Paris was submitted in 2018 – in the department of the Eure!

The association One Voice points out that on 8 October 2018 it submitted a complaint to the Public Prosecutor of Evreuxrelating to acts of cruelty, ill-treatment, conditions likely to cause suffering and illegal exploitation while the Cirque de Paris was in Saint-Marcel.  This complaint is still current and One Voice has of course therefore made an additional complaint in the light of the state of health of the lion that has been entrusted to it.  The association is not authorized to talk about the current inquiry.

In October 2018, in addition to the animals it usually keeps, the circus was exhibiting Dumba.  For decades her ‘owners’ have been hiring her out to circuses all over the world and to film companies.  This elephant too was in a pitiful state and we had also submitted a complaint in her name.

In March 2020, a few days before the lockdown, the association found out that the circus had ‘replaced’ Dumba with Baby, who is also hired out by her trainer for events such as a special offer in a supermarket, a wedding or an advertising stunt.  Like Dumba before her she performed in the big top under the gaze of the audience, who were unaware of her unhappiness and of the danger:  in fact many of them took selfies with her during the interval or followed her to the trailer after the performance, also in violation of the legislation.

The association One Voice is shocked to discover that an inspection was carried out on 27 April 2020, i.e. a month and a half ago, by the veterinary inspectors of the prefecture of the Eure, who did not notice the deplorable condition of the animals and in particular of the lion, and, even worse, concluded that they were in “apparent good health“, even though the prefecture is the only authority responsible for the welfare of these animals and consequently required to inspect these establishments regularly, paying particular attention to animal-protection issues.

The Prefect declares that the purpose of these inspections is not to check on the welfare of the animals but merely on their appearance.  And that is precisely what the problem is.  That must change.  These inspections must include protection of the animals, as provided for in law.

In any event, who can seriously think that Jon was enjoying apparent good health a month and a half ago?!

June 15th 2020 - 7:20am

Going all out to save the lionesses, Jon's companions!

As the State has failed in its duty to protect animals, in particular Jon but also Hannah, Patty, Céleste and Marli, the four lionesses still in the hands of the trainer, we are holding it to account and commencing urgent proceedings on their behalf!

Since saving Jon we have waited, sent expert opinions … That was ten days ago and nothing has happened. We shall not let the lionesses suffer in this circus any longer. The prefecture seems to be turning a blind eye to the mortal danger to which they are certainly exposed. It is inconceivable that these shameless trainers are not treating them any less badly than they did Jon.

Today, Monday 15 June 2020, we are lodging an urgent application with the Administrative Court and are asking the judge to order the Prefect to remove the lionesses and all the non-domestic animals from this circus and hand them over to One Voice. In addition we are calling on the Administrative Court to order an expert report on their welfare, as an alternative. To summarize, if the judge does not order that they be seized, we are applying for an expert to be appointed to carry out an urgent evaluation of the condition of Hannah, Patty, Céleste and Marli.

And tomorrow we shall also bring before the Administrative Court an action against the Prefect for failure to fulfil his obligations relating to animal protection. Not fulfilling them puts animals in danger, since they rely on him. The damages that we are asking for will go to felines rescued from circuses.

It is totally unacceptable for the State to be satisfied that these mutilated animals appear to be in good health and leave them to suffer agonies in the prisons that are circuses. In addition, Jon was being kept illegally: circuses are prohibited from keeping wild animals that are not used in performances. Why over the past two years have the prefecture and the veterinary services not intervened to help these poor creatures?

June 20th 2020 - 8:40am

After his first operation Jon is starting to live again!

Since being rescued from a circus two weeks ago Jon has been a lot better. His day-to-day needs are being met by our friends at Tonga Terre d’Accueil, who are bending over backwards to find stimulating activities for him and to take care of him. We have just spent two days at his side in order to be with him while he was having an operation and see for ourselves what progress he is making.

A lion almost back to full health!

In ten days Jon has really picked up. His ribs are no longer visible under his fur and he is much livelier than when we rescued him from the circus where he had been exploited for several years. The twenty kilos he has put on can also be seen by the skin on his belly, which is starting to fill out. He has made enormous progress in such a short time, which proves that his advanced wasting was definitely not due to age or illness but was a clear indication that he was being starved by the owner of the circus.

His rapid weight gain proves that he was dying of hunger.

Though shy at first, Jon was transformed when he discovered the outer part of his enclosure where he is convalescing. He now plays every day with various things placed in it by the Tonga Terre d’Accueil team to help him rediscover his zest for life. One day it is a big ball, another day tree stumps or a trunk resting on wooden feet. The ultimate secret to stimulate his senses: spices sprinkled around the enclosure, which make him dig in the sand and turn over pieces of bark in search of the source of the smell, which may be attractive or repulsive but is always intriguing. Another sign that he has become more confident: when he arrived he used to urinate on himself but now he does it on the walls (inside and outside!) to mark his territory everywhere.

A mutilated lion finally treated

Jon now digs holes, plays, vocalises more and more and gobbles his food down. The vet therefore reckoned that he was fit enough to be anaesthetised on Thursday 18 June so that his tail, on which we had noted numerous injuries, could be treated. The operation, under a general anaesthetic, went off without a hitch, but the vet had to remove part of the tail in order to stitch it neatly.

The vet also checked and confirmed what we had noted on the first day: Jon had no claws in his front paws. His teeth were also thoroughly inspected: all of them had been cut right down and one of the fangs was completely hollow and filled with putrefied food particles. All the pieces that had become black were extracted. But he has to be operated on again, for his teeth this time, by a specialist. They must have caused him immense suffering, which explains why he spends his time biting things.

Jon rediscovers his zest for life!

On Thursday, once Jon had come round from the anaesthetic, he threw himself on his food before going outside to fall sleep on his back, belly offered up to the sun’s rays. Within a few hours he had perked up. Obviously he still bears the stigmata of his life on the road. But we are hopeful that with a life far from the wagon and violent trainers, and with the disappearance of his chronic toothache, his stereotypic movements and self-mutilation will cease.

This lion who just a short time ago was suffering agonies is healing under our protective wing. We shall do everything in our power to enable his companions Hannah, Patty, Céleste and Marli to join him as soon as possible.

Let's write to the Ministry of Ecological and Inclusive Transition!

Via Twitter

Jon is not from a zoo in a country at war. @onevoiceanimal rescued him from a French circus in June 2020. According to @Prefet27 he is in good health. @Ecologie_Gouv, @Elisabeth_Borne, @brunepoirson, #BanCircusAnimals, when they will all be dead? https://www.lion-de-cirque.fr/en/

Content translated by Patricia Fairey