Animal-Free Circus

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CENTER STAGE: An Austrian circus uses 3-D projections of elephants, horses, and goldfish instead of actual animals.

At a performance of Circus Roncalli, an elephant appears in the center ring and stands on its back legs to greet the audience. But this is no ordinary pachyderm—it’s a hologram.

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Recently, the Austrian circus decided to stop having live animals in its shows. Instead, they’re using laser projectors with special lenses that split the beams of light. The light waves reflect back onto a screen to create realistic 3-D images of animals. They include elephants, horses, and even a giant goldfish.

Circus Roncalli’s switch to holograms comes in response to growing public concern about the welfare of circus animals. Sometimes, animals in traveling acts endure neglect and abuse. Animal rights activists argue that even when animals are well-cared for, it’s wrong to keep wild creatures confined and force them to perform.

“The future of circuses are performances where intelligent creatures are not used as objects of entertainment,” says Jan Creamer, president of Animal Defenders International, a nonprofit animal rights organization.

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