The Moulin Rouge, founded in 1889, has now bowed to pressure from Paris officials and campaigners to stop using snakes in one of its acts

Paris (AFP) - Paris’ storied Moulin Rouge cabaret venue said Thursday it would stop immersing non-aquatic snakes in water after the controversial stage act provoked outcry from animal rights activists.

The institution’s daily show features a sequence with a dancer playing alongside pythons in a see-through pool.

The cabaret, founded in 1889, has now bowed to pressure from Paris officials and campaigners who said it was cruel to submerge terrestrial snakes.

Animal rights advocates said they had seen the snakes trying to keep their heads above water in the vexed segment.

The two species used in the act, Southeast Asian reticulated and Indian pythons, are protected and live on land, officials from the French capital’s mayoral office told the venue in a letter.

“They may be strong swimmers, but the staging does not take into account the species’ natural behaviour,” the notice said.

The Moulin Rouge did not give an end date for the show and said it had to give “reasonable notice” to performers.

“Aware of societal developments on animal welfare, the Moulin Rouge will stop this number,” the venue said, adding that respect for animals had “always been essential” to its operation.

- Heated campaign -

The move follows a heated campaign with petitions and demonstrations.

“The snakes have no business being there,” Amandine Sanvisens, co-founder of the PAZ animal rights group, previously said. “This isn’t the right environment for reptiles”.

Last year the cabaret told Le Parisien newspaper: “We have never mistreated and will never mistreat animals.”

It claimed it used “a species of aquatic python, equally at home in the water as on land” in the show.

But Alice Georges, a keeper at exotic pet shop Ferme Tropicale de Paris, said she had spotted reticulated and Indian pythons in videos of the act posted online.

“These aren’t aquatic snakes. What they’re being forced to endure is horrible,” she said.

It appeared the Moulin Rouge sat in a loophole in a 2021 law that forbids using wild animals in nightclubs or on TV from this year and bans owning them from 2028.

Hailed by President Emmanuel Macron’s camp at the time as an animal rights coup, the law has both sparked a backlash from circus owners and been criticised by animal rights groups for not going far enough on issues like hunting, industrial farming or bullfighting.