The circuses of the future will have bright lights, virtual-reality technology and one especially awe-inspiring feature: consent from all entertainers. German-based Circus Roncalli is leading the way by becoming the first circus to use 3D holograms of animals instead of forcing live animals to entertain crowds.

Circus Roncalli has been around since 1976 but led the pack by dropping live circus animals from its acts as early as the 1990s. Last year, founder and director Bernhard Paul invested half a million dollars (USD) to develop the holographic animal performances that have recently gone viral on social media.

Related: New Jersey first state to ban wild animals in circuses

His shows now feature acts by holographic elephants, horses and large goldfish and attracted over 600,000 attendees in the first year alone. With ticket prices between $32 and $78 USD per person, his investment was well worth it.

elephant hologram at a circus

Animal rights advocates and circus enthusiasts have jumped on his success, touting Circus Roncalli as the future of the circus and using it as an example to advocate for the end of animal abuse in entertainment. Many governments are also passing laws that prohibit the use of animals for entertainment.

“Thankfully, the public is voting with their feet, and increasingly visiting shows where the performers get to choose instead of being forced to perform,” said Jan Creamer from Animal Defenders International. “This is the future of circus — a performance everyone can enjoy and for which intelligent, sentient beings are not used and depicted as objects of entertainment.”

Paul claims his years of success are due to the skills of his human performers, including amazing acrobatic tricks, and the circus animals are an added feature that the crowds love. Not all entertainment acts have the available cash to invest in large light shows; however, with increasing awareness and support for animal rights, other circuses should look to Circus Roncalli as inspiration.

Via The Dodo and WSVN Miami

Images via Circus Roncalli (1, 2)