Iconic French actress Brigitte Bardot has threatened to apply for Russian citizenship if French authorities go ahead with plans to put down two sick elephants. The animals currently reside in an enclosure at a zoo in Lyon and are suffering from tuberculosis.
Bardot, one of the most recognisable sex symbols of the 1960s, released a written declaration to the AFP news agency on Friday, saying: “If those people in power are cowardly and impudent enough to kill the two elephants Baby and Nepal… then I have decided to ask for Russian nationality in order to escape this country which has become nothing but an animal cemetary.”
Bardot’s announcement comes a day after Russian president Vladimir Putin offered to grant a Russian passport to French actor Gérard Depardieu, who has publicly stated his wish to leave France because of the government’s intention to introduce a new 75 percent tax rate on high-income earners.
The two pachyderms, who are in their 40s and could have decades left to live if healthy, were given to the zoo by the Pinder circus group. The head of Pinder has written to France’s president François Hollande, urging him to intervene to save the animals. An online petition to save Baby and Nepal has already garnered tens of thousands of signatures.
A Lyon judge has backed a decision by the local authorities to put the elephants to sleep, arguing their illness poses a threat to other animals in the zoo.
Since ending her film career in the 1970s, Bardot has devoted herself to animal rights, but her outspoken views on other issues such as immigration, homosexuality and the unemployed have sometimes provoked angry reactions.
For example she has frequently criticised Eid al-Adha festivities when Muslims ritually slaughter sheep. In 2008 she received her fifth conviction in court in 11 years for incitement to religious hatred, over a flyer concerning Eid al-Adha in which she said the Muslim community in France was “destroying our country by imposing its acts”.