Jim McMahon

This might appear to be a typical circus scene at first glance, but look a bit closer. Under the big top at the Circus Roncalli, along with the usual clowns and trapeze artists, you’ll find elephants and galloping horses greeting the crowd—but the creatures aren’t there in the flesh. The German circus company, founded in 1976, recently began putting on animal-free performances using holograms. The circus says its new high-tech approach will spare the animals from the grueling task of performing for humans. American circuses may want to follow Circus Roncalli’s lead, as states are beginning to restrict how animals can be used onstage, following years of lobbying from animal rights groups. In December, New Jersey became the first state to place an outright ban on wild and exotic animals in traveling acts. “This is the future of circus—a performance everyone can enjoy,” Jan Creamer, president of Animal Defenders International, told animal-focused website The Dodo, “and for which intelligent, sentient beings are not used and depicted as objects of entertainment.”