Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

The science on suffering: Travelling (4)

Posted: 17 May 2006


2.3 Effects of Transport on Reproduction

Animals in circuses are transported throughout their life cycle, regardless of age, condition or reproductive status. Transporting animals whilst pregnant gives rise to particular cause for concern, as discussed in the scientific literature. For example:

  • Pregnant horses transported for 9 hours showed signs of prolonged stress which are associated with abortion or reabsorption of early pregnancies (a change in concentration of ascorbic acid in plasma and in tissue) (Baucus et al., 1990a). The study also showed that transportation caused increases in serum progesterone and cortisol, which are other indicators of stress.
  • Thirty mares were tested daily throughout one normal oestrous cycle and it was found that there was an increase in LH concentrations in transported mares (LH is a hormone that regulates the release of progesterone and oestrogen in female animals) and an increase in cortisol and in the concentrations of plasma ascorbic acid. The paper concludes that 12 hour transportation of mares induces “hormonal and plasma ascorbic acid responses indicative of stress” (Baucus et al., 1990b).

Whilst it is a common view that horses and other animals become accustomed to transport, we have not seen any scientific evidence that this is the case.

In ADI’s view, the fact that an animal is repeating an experience does not necessarily make it less traumatic, it may in fact sensitise it to the trauma. Many of the reference papers we have reviewed for the above describe the effects of a single journey, but one must assume that since multiple and frequent journeys are made by circus animals, at least some of these effects will be multiplied.


Excessive periods in transporters.

Case Study: Great British Circus.
Observations – 26 & 27 March 2006.

Journey: Laceby, Grimsby to Marston, Birmingham.

Actual journey time: 3 hours 25 minutes

2 Horses, 2 ponies, 4 reindeer, 4 llamas: Time spent on transporters (from
being loaded to being unloaded) 17 to 17.5 hours

9 Lions and tigers: 27 hours (on beastwagon before any access to exercise cage)

NB: A previously reported (‘Animals in UK Circuses’, 2003) a journey of just 15 miles took just 26 minutes; however the camels remained in their transporter for 4 hours and the tigers in their beastwagon for 24 hours.

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