Animal Defenders International

 

Animal Defenders International

The science on suffering: Husbandry and close confinement (1)

Posted: 17 May 2006

3. Husbandry and close confinement

Poor husbandry in the circus may not be intentional, but it is to an extent unavoidable given the travelling nature of circuses and the temporary enclosures, living spaces and transporters that the animals have to inhabit.

Even reptile species such as snakes, which are considered extremely difficult to keep as pets due to their highly specialised needs (such as specific temperature and light requirements) are currently legal in a circus.

The constant moving and changing environmental conditions cause disruption of normal behavioural patterns which are likely to leave animals inherently vulnerable to stress and disease. For example, McGreevy (2004) describes how the timing of sleep is very important in horses. By preference horses would sleep in the early afternoon and therefore it is generally advised that there should be a minimum of activity at this time. However in the circus, transport, training and performance do not take this into account.

Enclosures with a restricted amount of space can create a stressful environment for an animal. When animals are housed in groups, the space restrictions can precipitate increased aggression between individuals, where lower ranking animals cannot escape and more injuries occur through fighting (Cassinello & Pieters, 2000).

It is now widely accepted by the zoo fraternity that environmental enrichment – the process of improving or enhancing animal environments and care within the context of their inhabitants’ behavioural biology, i.e. keeping the animals as close as possible to their natural environments (Young, 2003) – is essential to the welfare of captive animals.

Environmental enrichment is a dynamic process requiring species-specific modification which, with the best will in the world, simply cannot be provided in a meaningful way in a circus. The high level of abnormal behaviour seen in circus animals testifies to the absence of useful environmental stimulation (ADI observation data).

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