The CIRCUS is NO FUN for the animals…
Big Cat Rescue does something called Operant Conditioning to teach our cats to do things we need them to do for medical reasons, such as lean against the fence to get their shots or open their mouth so we can look at their teeth. We do this with rewards and the cats have fun because they are smart and bored and love the attention. We never punish or withhold food to make them do something, and the cats only do it when they want to — not on our schedule.
But because tigers and lions in circus acts must perform specific acts at precise times and “the show must go on,” positive reinforcement is not the only method used by circus trainers or night club magicians. Often the cats are beaten, starved and confined for long periods of time in order to get them to cooperate with what the trainers want. And life on the road means that most of a cat’s life is spent in a circus wagon in the back of a semi-truck or in a crowded, stinking box car on a train or barge.
The messages the public gets from circus acts couldn’t be worse. These acts either show man dominating one of nature’s most magnificent creatures, which would never happen on an even playing field, or worse are promoted as illustrations of the “special bond” the trainer has with his captive. The latter just fuels the trade in big cats as pets and that never ends well for the cat.
Last, but not least, circus acts are transient and often are a way of moving big cats across state lines or even in and out of the country. Because the endangered species protection acts are so poorly enforced, this transience creates a legal cover for the illegal importation and exportation of exotic cats. If a circus act leaves the U.S. with 10 tigers and comes back with 25, they can just say that the 15 additional tigers were born on the road — there is no way to prove it if they were taken from the wild. No U.S. government agency tracks the ages nor the individual cats in private collections.