Muriel Arnal founded the French animal welfare organization One Voice in 1995. One Voice fights to end experiments on animals, exploitation of animals in circuses and dolphinariums, and the use of animals for fur and leather.
Her love for animals started at a very young age. She always wanted to be brave and help animals. “Then I met an elephant in a circus when I was about ten years old. I felt helpless seeing this elephant in a truck, so the only thing I could do to help him, was bring him food, and that’s what I did at the time. I never set foot in a circus (after that), even now I don’t, our investigators do that,” Muriel says about the traumatic experience.
Muriel talks to The Animal Reader about Inouk the orca, who’s suffering in a marine park, the last four mink farms in France, Jumbo the hippopotamus living in a circus with no access to water, and the elephants Mina and Kamala who are forced to do tricks in a circus.
Swimming in circles for twenty years
Orca Inouk has been in captivity his whole life. His parents were caught in Iceland and lived a short horrible life in dolphinarium Marineland of Antibes. The father of Inouk was very big and was in constant isolation. His mother became mentally ill from being captured.
“Inouk is over 20 now, and he’s ground his teeth so much against the concrete tank that he doesn’t have any teeth anymore, he has holes. He has the worst teeth ever seen in captivity according to scientists,” Muriel says.
She adds that Inouk has been swimming in circles for 20 years now: “It’s extremely sad, because these animals are more intelligent than chimpanzees. They have a brain that is more complex, they have societies.”
Four mink farms in France
Muriel says One Voice filed multiple complaints against one of the four mink farms in France. She hopes it will get closed down because of the horrible conditions the mink are in. She says the cages are way too small and they live in their own feces. It’s heartbreaking to see the conditions these animals live in.
“We are hoping the farmers will be condemned for cruelty because they know what they’re doing, they’re professionals,” Muriel says. The French government announced that all mink farms will close in 2025. However, Arnal wants to push it back, stating “five years is too long”.
Jumbo the hippo is depressed
Jumbo is a hippopotamus who lives in a circus truck. “Usually hippos spend sixteen hours a day in water. Jumbo has been in this truck for nearly 40 years, with no access to water. He’s also overweight, very much overweight. He weighs three tonnes while he should weigh two tonnes,” Arnal says.
“He is always in this truck. He goes out for half an hour each day, in front of children. Then he gets a little bit of bread and some water and then he goes inside his truck. That’s all he does.”
“You see him extremely calm. The experts who saw the footage tell us it’s because he’s depressed. He’s given up, but we don’t want to give up for him. We filed a complaint about Jumbo, we nearly confiscated him, but the circus is extremely violent. They filed plenty of complaints against us, but we’re not going to stop, we’re going to continue,” she continues.
“If Jumbo dies in this truck, some people will have to be held responsible for letting that happen,” Arnal says. She adds that Jumbo is being held illegal because he’s not partaking in the show, so he should’ve been free long ago.
Elephants Mina and Kamala
Mila and Kamila are over 50 years old and still are forced to perform tricks in a circus in France. They were born in Asia. They were together in the circus with another elephant named Lechmee. Lemchee was blind and eventually injured her foot. She stopped participating in events.
Mila and Kamila guided and fed her, so it was important for them to stay together, which didn’t happen. In 2018 the circus was forced to retire Lechmee, but One Voice did not have the authority to place the three of them somewhere else. Sadly, she was sent to England, without Mila and Kamala.
Ban the use of animals in circuses
The French government said that they want to ban the use of wildlife animals in circuses, but Muriel says it’s all very vague; the measures are not clear, no one knows when or how many years it’s going to take, how it’s going to happen and it’s not clear whether it will be an actual law or not.
In 25 years, One Voice has accomplished a lot. Arnal said that the effect of the circus-campaigns is all thanks to the public. “We launched the campaign in July 1999, and people did not understand the campaign. In 2003, four years later, an elephant got beaten by a trainer in front of children. People started seeing that there was a problem, that was the first step.”