Animal Defenders International


Animal Defenders International

The science on suffering: Travelling (1)

Posted: 17 May 2006

2. Travelling

Frequent periods of transportation, and long periods in transporters, are the norm for animals in circuses. During a performance season, circuses can visit many different sites, all over the country, covering long distances by road and often staying at each site for just a few days before moving on. Consequently animals have to endure a lifestyle of continuous travel and unstable environments. For example, in 2005 Zippo’s Circus travelled over 1900 kilometres from January to October, and The Great British Circus travelled over 1000 kilometres between February and October.

Furthermore evidence from our observations shows that it is common practice for circus animals to remain on their transporters for many hours before and after a journey, due to workers being occupied with other activities (ADI observation data).

A scientific review of research on the transportation of horses concluded that: “Although some horses adapt to transport much better than others, transport is generally associated with lower reproductive rates, increased disease incidence, a temporary reduction in athletic performance and the alteration of many other physiological traits that are indicative of stress…Transported horses can be subjected to a wide range of potential stressors, including isolation from herd-mates, forced close proximity to unfamiliar or aggressive horses, novel or threatening surroundings, exposure to new pathogens, restraint of normal activity patterns, forced adoption of an abnormal posture, extremes in temperature, water and feed deprivation, and blowing dust and particulate matter. Transport has long been associated with morbidity in horses”. (Friend, 2001).

This paper was making particular reference to horses. In the remaining part of this chapter, we will present scientific support to show that these welfare problems occur across a wide range of species, across varied durations and conditions of transport. Proof that transport, which is a key factor in travelling circus life, is indeed a welfare problem for animals.

2.1 Exotic Species

  • Research on alpacas, ungulates of the camel family, (ungulates also include horse, deer, sheep, cattle, rhinoceros) shows that transport for just 30 minutes was sufficient to induce hypercortisolaemia, and it took four hours after transportation for serum cortisol levels to return to normal levels (Anderson et al., 1999). These animals were transported in familiar groups, for only 30 minutes to and from the research farm, i.e. their usual environments. However circus animals are often transported for longer periods, and transported to unfamiliar locations.
  • Circus tigers have shown a wide range of abnormal behaviours (coping strategies), whilst travelling, including stereotypic behaviours such as pacing, which increased as transport duration increased (Nevil & Friend, 2003; and ADI observation data).
  • In captive black rhinoceroses a connection between transport and the immediate development of a skin disease was found (Munson et al, 1998).
  • Many species are known to suffer from ‘capture myopathy’, a syndrome that occurs in wild (free ranging and captive) mammals and birds, and is associated with the stress of capture, restraint and transportation. In ungulates, the syndrome is characterised clinically by depression, muscular stiffness, lack of coordination, paralysis, metabolic acidosis and death (Montanè, 2002).

ADI has videotape evidence featuring stereotypic behaviours in almost all of the circus animal species examined, including horses and ponies, llamas, camels, giraffes, elephants, lions, tigers and bears.

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