Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

Animal Circuses belong to the past (1)

Posted: 30 October 2008


In the last 100 years human understanding of the planet we live on and the animals with whom we share our world has grown enormously. We have made great strides in technology, medicine and learning. Yet how can we consider ourselves civilised, whilst we continue to allow the suffering and abuse of animals simply for entertainment.

Animal Defenders International (ADI) has carried out a world wide investigation for over a decade and brings you the reality of life for circus animals. A life of confinement, deprivation and violence which is hidden behind the illusion, the music and sparkle of the show. This is a world that the circuses never expected you to see. We lift the curtain.

Travelling from place to place, week after week, even with the best of intentions, circuses cannot provide animals with the facilities they need to be healthy and happy. Circuses set up on whatever land is available in a town, or where they might attract the most visitors. No consideration is given to the needs of the animals.

The temporary nature of travelling circuses means that throughout the long touring season animals are severely confined and this causes suffering. Despite the severe limitations of space and the lack of trained staff, circuses are able to obtain what ever animals they wish. No matter how rare, no matter how specialised the care required, no matter how inappropriate it is to keep the animal in these conditions, someone, somewhere, will turn the animal into a circus attraction.

For lions, tigers, and bears, home is usually a cage on the back of a truck. The average space for each animal is about two metres by two and a half metres, barely larger than the animal itself, and that includes the space where they have to go to the toilet. A few circuses provide “exercise cages”. But these are much smaller than you would think; they usually contain nothing of interest; and animals will only get an hour or two in this space, anyway.

The largest animal that walks the earth, the wild elephant, travels for up to 20 kilometres a day, eating, bathing, enjoying complex social interactions with its own kind, even mourning its dead. In the circus they spend most of their day, and often the entire day, chained by the legs barely able to shuffle a pace or two forwards or backwards. The lucky ones might get a pitiful enclosure and will generally be chained at night and for much of the day.

Horses, ponies, camels, llamas and similar animals are no better off. They are usually tied or kept in small stalls. If exercise pens are made they are often part of the circus illusion - they are not used by many animals, and, often remain empty when there are no visitors. Before and during shows, and at night, and if it is raining, the animals are closely confined in stalls or tied on short ropes.

And for all the circus animals their lives of frustration and boredom are punctuated by violence. Day to day control of circus animals, moving them from cage to cage, and moving them to the ring to perform relies on force. Circus animals are controlled with: whips, sticks and metal bars and goads, or elephant hooks. If shouting or banging the bars of a cage does not work, intimidation of the animal can quickly escalate to a vicious beating. And sometimes, the keeper will simply decide to teach the animal a lesson. But the circus is a world of illusion, where sharp spikes can be concealed on a walking stick or in tassles, and used without being seen.

On a regular, often weekly basis, the circus will move on, and the animals will endure long hours travelling in transporters - this is known to be distressing. Animals will be loaded into transporters and left there whilst the site is dismantled, then after the journey they will remain shut inside until the new site is prepared. Animal Defenders International has recorded animals left on transporters for periods of up to 25 hours, when the journey itself was just five hours.

And just how safe can these temporary animal encampments be? Circus workers and members of the public, including children, have been killed and maimed after attacks by circus animals. Lions, tigers and elephants have all escaped, and people have died as a result. Yet circuses repeatedly bring people into dangerously close proximity to these animals.

To make matters worse, they may display animals in inappropriate, uncontrolled areas, just to attract publicity for their show. It is not just the public who are at risk. Animals can be vulnerable to torment and abuse by circus visitors, or they may be fed dangerous and inappropriate food. It is important to remember that any animal will be unpredictable, when frightened and in such unnatural conditions. And there is nowhere less natural than the travelling circus.


© Animal Defenders International 2019