Circus Acts That Use Wild Cats Should be Banned
Big cats and other animals do not belong in circuses. Circus life is inherently cruel for two key reasons:
- The animals spend the vast majority of their time confined in tiny boxes while being transported from city to city.
- Trainers claim they only use positive reinforcement, but that is not true. Cats are independent and while they quickly learn the behaviors, they simply will not perform reliably based on positive reinforcement, or what is known as operant conditioning. They will perform only if they feel like it. The ONLY way to get them to perform reliably is by training them with physical punishment, which is a form of abuse.
Social values evolve over time. We forget that it was only 100 years ago that a small band of suffragettes seeking the vote for women were mocked, beaten and thrown in jail by a society that broadly accepted the idea that only men should vote. Similarly, fifty years ago almost no one thought about what life was like for circus animals. The circus was viewed then, and still is by some, as part of the American identity.
But, in the last two decades that has changed dramatically. Country after country has banned using big cats and other animals in circuses. Sadly, nationally the U.S. is woefully behind at the national level, with the one large circus employing an army of lobbyists to resist efforts to correct this injustice. But, at the local level, there has been enormous progress in the United States. Over 50 local governments have passed ordinances or laws banning use of animals in circuses or limiting the abusive ways they are treated.
Bull hook bans are a great example. A bull hook is a medieval looking pole with a metal point and hook at the end. Do you know why the ban works? Because young elephants are beaten with the bull hook so they fear it as adults. If circus trainers cannot carry a bull hook into the ring, they have no way to control the elephants. The result? Ringling is stopping use of elephants in their circus. They should also stop using big cats.
We are seeing the evolution of our society’s concern for animal treatment affect other major animal exhibitors. The movie Blackfish resulted in major changes at Sea World.
Below are videos that give you a more vivid view of the history and issues related to the circus. Below them are lists of countries and US jurisdictions that have responded to the growing public outrage over cruel use of animals in the circus.
What can you do to help?
Sign the pledge committing not to attend a circus that uses animals by clicking the image below and spread the word on social media asking others to do so. If enough people stop attending, the circus will become unprofitable and will stop using animals, much like lower attendance caused Sea World to change.
This amazing peer-reviewed article, published in 2009 by the U.K. scientific journal Animal Welfare, presents tons of cited, scientific proof that completely blows apart all of the claims of “animal welfare” and “conservation” made by circuses (it was already mentioned on your site, but I thought you might want the actual article.) The authors examined virtually all other studies regarding the husbandry and welfare of exotic animals in traveling circuses, with a particular focus on elephants and big cats, in an attempt to analyze the implications that circus life has on the welfare of animals. Their verdict? “Species commonly kept in circuses appear the least suited to a circus life.” https://bigcatrescue.org/lions-and-tigers-are-the-animals-least-suited-to-life-in-a-circus/
Among this paper’s findings were that:
“…the contribution of circuses to captive breeding conservation programmes is, at best, negligible.”
“Circus animals spend the majority of the day confined, a small amount of time performing/training, and the remaining time in exercise pens. Circus cages/exercise pens and beast wagons were, on average, only 26 and 27%, respectively of the recommended size of zoo outdoor and indoor enclosures. Circuses, by their very nature, have a limited ability to improve these conditions.”
The paper also claims that “the majority of the evidence available suggests that human audiences have stressful effects on non-domesticated animals,” noting that circus tigers pace 80% more when on display to the public; and that constant, loud noise from crowds or music has been documented to cause gastroenteritis in big cats. Another interesting finding was that, “In a study on the transport environment in six USA circuses, only two circuses used insulated walls and high capacity ventilation fans to maintain internal temperatures within a safe range.”
Finally, the authors point out that although virtually all circus animals were born in captivity, “this does not mean such animals are fundamentally different from free-living animals.” They write that “there is no evidence to suggest that the natural needs of non-domesticated animals can be met through the living conditions and husbandry offered by circuses”, and that “neither natural environment nor much natural behaviour can be recreated in circuses.”
- Tigers don’t want to jump through hoops of fire
- Elephants don’t want to balance on their back legs on top of a ball
- Lions don’t want to be hit with whips
- Elephants don’t want sharp bull hooks poking them until they bleed
- Tigers don’t want to be electrocuted with prods
- Even the baby elephants are tied up with ropes and chains!
- This is their very sad life in the circus
- Animals perform because they are afraid of being hurt!
- They perform stupid tricks because they are scared of the trainers
- Tigers and lions spend most of their time in tiny cages with no exercise
- Elephants spend most of their time chained to the ground so tightly they can’t walk even a couple of steps
- The animals lose their minds after a while, but the circus trainers still don’t care
- People use animals in the circus to make money
- Circus owners don’t care if the elephants cry
- Circus owners don’t care if the tigers are hurt…or thirsty…or scared
- Circus owners don’t care if the lions are tired or starving
- Some of the animals even die
- It is up to us kids to help the animals
- Animals should be treated with kindness
- Animals should be respected, not abused
- Don’t ever buy a ticket to any circus that has animals (or don’t let your parents buy tickets)
Worldwide circus bans
Posted: 27 March 2006. Updated: 16 December 2014 by https://www.ad-international.org/animals_in_entertainment/go.php?id=281
Austria: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
Belgium: Nationwide ban on the use of most wild animals in circuses (Parrots and camel are classed as domestic)
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Nationwide ban on all animals in circuses
Croatia: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
Czech Republic: Nationwide ban on the use of certain species in circuses.
Cyprus: Nationwide ban on all animals in circuses
Denmark: Nationwide ban on the use of certain species in circuses.
Estonia: Nationwide ban on the use of wild-born animals in circuses.
Finland: Nationwide ban on the use of certain species in circuses.
Greece: Nationwide ban on all animals in circuses
Hungary: Nationwide ban on the use of wild caught animals in circuses, the purchase and training of elephants and primates for circus performances and the purchase, training and use of CITES (Appendix 1) listed species in circuses.
Ireland: Local bans on the use of animals in circuses in Clonakilty, Cork, Drogheda, Fingal, Galway City, Kildare, Monaghan, Moyle, South Dublin and Waterford
Malta:Nationwide ban on all animals for performances, exhibitions, shows or training for the circus
The Netherlands Nationwide ban on the use and transport of animals in circuses, with exemptions for certain, mostly domestic, species
Norway Local ban on wild or exotic animal shows in Tromsø municipality
Poland: Nationwide ban on the use of wild-born animals in circuses.
Portugal: Nationwide ban restricting the use of great apes in circuses and the acquisition and breeding of CITES listed species.
Slovenia: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses
Spain: Local bans on the use of wild animals in circuses in several towns including Barcelona.
Sweden: Nationwide ban on the use of certain species in circuses.
UK: Over 200 local authorities have bans on animal circuses (more than two thirds of these ban all performing animals, the remainder ban just wild animals). A Government commitment to ban the use of wild animals in circuses – this is yet to be enacted.
USA: 46 partial or full bans on circus animals in municipalities in the US, in 21 states.
Canada: Local bans on the use of animals in circuses in 28 municipal jurisdictions.
CENTRAL AND SOUTH AMERICA
Argentina: Local bans on the use of wild animals in circuses in over 20 cities including a ban in the city of Buenos Aires.
Bolivia: Nationwide ban on the use of wild and domestic animals in circuses.
Brazil: Local bans on the use of wild and domestic animals in circuses in the districts of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Pernambuco, Paraiba, Rio Grande do Sul, Espiritu Santo, Mato Grosso do Sul, Alagoas and a number of bans in cities within another four Brazilian states.
Chile: Local bans on the use of wild and domestic animals in circuses in the city of Santiago.
Colombia: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses; Local ban on the use of animals in circuses in the capital, Bogota.
Costa Rica: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
Ecuador: Nationwide ban on the use of native wild animals; restrictions on the use of exotic animals; ban on the import of both native and exotic wild animals with circuses
El Salvador: Nationwide ban on the “Income, use or abuse of wildlife species in all kinds of entertainment”
Mexico:Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses
Panama:Nationwide ban prohibiting “entry of wild animals for use in static and travelling circuses and similar shows”
Paraguay: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
Peru: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses as well as a local ban on all animals in Magdalena del Mar.
Australia: Local bans on the use of animals in circuses in several towns including Hobsons Bay, Surf Coast Shire, Parramata and Lismore.
India: Nationwide ban on the use of certain species in circuses.
Israel: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
Singapore: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
Taiwan: Nationwide prohibition on the import or export of protected wildlife for circuses.
Our thanks to Animal Defenders International (ADI) for the list below of U.S. jurisdictions passing some form of ban
|Type of Prohibition, Restriction or Use of Animals
|AK, Eureka Springs
|Says Ban. Is that Display?
|CA, Huntington Beach
|CA, Los Angeles
|Tools designed for inflicting pain
|CA, Marin County
|Keeping; bullhooks & other implements as of 2017
|Bullhooks & other implements as of 2017
|CA, Rohnert Park
|CA, San Francisco
|Display (says Complete Ban)
|CA, Santa Ana
|CA, Santa Monica
|CA, West Hollywood
|Ban deprivation, electricity, some punishment, some instruments
|FL, Hallandale Beach
|Bullhooks & other implements
|Displays or exhibits
|Painful techniques and devices
|FL, Miami Beach
|FL, Palm Beach
|FL, Pompano Beach
|All except educational. Ban on painful techniques/ devices
|Use of substances and devices in exhibits & performances
|Keeping, confinement, display
|Bans certain mistreatment
|GA, Fulton County
|Painful instrument or device
|HI, Maui County
|ID, Blaine County
|Train to participate in unnatural behavior
|IN, Fort Wayne
|Painful substances and devices
|IN, St John
|Unnatural behavior & substances/devices causing injury or suffering
|KS, Douglas County
|Ownership or possession barred in certain areas
|NC, Orange County
|NC, Chapel Hill
|Use of electric prods
|OR, Clatsop County
|SC, Aiken County
|Painful substances and devices
|Possession (different from keeping?)
|WA, Port Townsend
|WI, Dane County
|Full ban (not sure what comments about “one circus only” mean)
|WI, Green Bay
|Traveling shows, circuses