Facts About Circus Animals

  • Animals do not choose to perform, and will not do tricks on command, every single day, like jumping through hoops, dancing, sitting on chairs, and walking upright on their back legs, because they want to. They only do this because they have no choice and are afraid of what will happen if they don’t perform.
  • Circus animal training methods are questionable and training always happens out of the public eye, although most circuses will claim to train using positive reinforcement. In reality, training is often based on a system of intimidation, reward and punishment, which can even mean the withholding of food and water. In South Africa, charges of abuse were brought against a circus when footage emerged of the Elephants being abused.
  • Even domesticated animals like dogs, ponies and horses are expected to perform every day on demand, something we would never expect of our pets.
  • Most animals have intricate social systems and spend time with their own kind, just like humans do. Locking them in cages in isolation, or unfamiliar groups, is cruel and inhumane.
  • Most circuses claim that the animals are captive born and not torn from their natural habitats. However, captive born does not mean domesticated, and animals in captivity do not lose their natural instincts. They all have the need to express behaviour that is natural to them.
  • Animals in captivity become frustrated and suffer extreme stress, depression and boredom, exhibited by repetitive behavior such as pacing up and down, head-bobbing, rocking and swaying. Sometimes they snap and lash out at humans. There are many examples worldwide of humans being injured and even killed when this happens. In recent times, in South Africa alone:
    • In 2001, a handler was killed by a circus Elephant on a film set in Broederstroom. Fiso Mbambo, 23, the Elephant’s handler for three years, was killed while walking through the veld with five fellow handlers. The Elephant was one of seven Elephants being used as background animals for the video filming of Olie.
    • In August 2014, at Rietfontein, Johannesburg, a circus worker sustained severe bite wounds and lacerations to his neck and chest when a Tiger escaped and attacked him.
    • In 2013, at Port Elizabeth, an alligator escaped from the circus enclosure.
  • Circus animals travel long distances for most of the year in cramped cages, where they are left confined while the circus sets/ packs up from town to town. Circus animals spend most of their time in these cages/ trailers, the sizes of which are not even acceptable by zoo standards, with poor light and ventilation, often standing in their own waste for days.

Circuses Play No Educational Purpose

  • Children are taught that animals are commodities, to be used for fun and entertainment, and children learn nothing about the needs or natural behaviour of animals.
  • Circus animals lack freedom of movement, and whilst they are sometimes allowed out in small exercise enclosures, or tied/ tethered to one spot in a field, they are mostly confined to their cages between performances.
  • Animals in circuses often suffer injuries related to their constant confinement and captivity, and performing unnatural tricks that their bodies were not designed for.
  • Animals have their own intelligence and emotions, and they think, feel and suffer. Imagine if you had to spend your whole life locked in a cage, and only being let out to perform silly tricks?
  • Animals in circuses suffer a life-time of misery for your few minutes of entertainment. When they are no longer able to perform, they are generally not retired to happy places, but are sold off to zoos and animal traders of questionable ethics. Their suffering only ends when they die.
  • The circus will tell you that they love their animals, that they are in good health, and are well fed, and always have food, water and shelter. Don’t be fooled, this is exactly how it should be, otherwise the animals would be removed by the SPCA should they not be properly taken care of. The circus may claim to love them, but they are using and exploiting the animals to make money.
  • Over 45 countries have implemented full or partial bans against animals in circuses, recognising that this kind of animal abuse is a thing of the past.

What Can You Do?

  • Boycott all animal circuses.
  • Take action and be an advocate for animals. Advise your friends and family about the real cruelty of animals in circuses.
  • Support animal-free circuses.
  • Contact us for support or to organize a protest in your area.

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