Growing up, many of us were excited to go to the circus. Any why wouldn't we be? Images of circus life tend to surround us when we are children. Clowns, big tops, and circus acts are common themes for our birthday parties, at our amusement parks, or in our movies. So when the circus finally comes to town, and we learn our parents are taking us, we are excited to experience it in person and to take in the sights and sounds. And, most especially, to see the animals.
The animals in the circus are not the animals we see every day, so they are all the more spectacular. How often do we have the thrill of witnessing the majesty of elephants, tigers, lions, bears, and the other exotic animals found under the big top? Virtually never. Because those animals are wild animals whose natural homes are far away from the cities they are forced to perform in, and their natural behaviors involve roaming vast territories, living with their families, hunting, and raising their young. They do not live or exist for the amusement of humans.
And the silly tricks you see in the circus? Those are not normal or natural. An elephant does not sit down as a human would and throw her trunk up in the air while another elephant steps on her back. Tigers do not pose on pedestals on their hind legs or jump through hoops. The performances we see in the circus are forced behaviors that are taught to animals from the time they are young. They are behavioral manipulations that have been learned through starvation, the infliction of pain or injury, alienation from others, light deprivation, and other repulsive forms of animal abuse.
The circus has lied to us from the time we were small, causing us to think that whipping tigers or making elephants stand on their heads is "normal," when those activities are anything but normal. They are examples of blatant animal abuse and the only reason it takes place is to line the pocketbooks of the companies who hold animals hostage, depriving them of their homes, their families, and their freedom.
Please watch the following video to learn more about the lives of animals forced into circus life. Sensitive viewers can scroll down this page for additional information without graphic images.
Don't Circuses Love Their Animals?
Circus Training is Animal Abuse
In the hands of their “trainers”, animals confined to the circus endure repeated and prolonged suffering from the time they are babies. This suffering was revealed to the world in 2009, when whistleblower Sam Haddock shared photos of baby elephant training with the world. The babies are separated from their mothers, tied with ropes by all of their limbs and their tiny trunks, and forced into performing unnatural postures using sharp metal weapons called "bullhooks" . Click here to see these heartbreaking images.
This treatment continues throughout their lives. At any circus performance featuring elephants, you will see a trainer or several trainers with bullhooks in hand. The elephants know that these are weapons that will hurt them if they do not do as they are requested.
Tigers are also subjected to injurious forms of training. Whips, tight collars, and electric prods are used to force the animals into doing unnatural postures like standing on their hind legs or performing synchronized movements.
Unlike the training of our dogs or cats, the training of wild animals always involves abuse. They do not respond to "positive reinforcement" techniques. Do not believe circus lies. Circus training IS animal abuse.
The Circus is Animal Jail
Training is not the only form of abuse the animals in the circus endure.
In the wild, elephants and tigers will walk and run miles each day. Yet in the circus the animals are confined to small cages, or chained, and are unable to move about as they would naturally. The animals are also frequently transported in train cars or in trucks, and kept there for numerous hours or even days at a time. This occurs for many animals up to 90% of their lives.
When you visit an elephant in a circus or zoo, look for them slowly swaying their heads back and forth or rocking from side to side. These actions are called "stereotypic" behaviors and they indicate psychological distress. The intensive confinement of elephants coupled with a lack of ability to socialize with their families, or even others of their kind, causes them to experience emotional trauma. What would your experience of life be like if you were torn from your family and confined in a jail cell? Elephants, tigers, and other animals used by the circus are sentient beings, just like you. They have thoughts, feelings, and a desire to be free. The circus is animal abuse.