What's Wrong with the Circus
The Care and Treatment of Animals in Circuses Is Shameful
The tricks that animals are forced to perform, night after night, are frightening, unnatural, and even painful. Standard circus industry practice is to use bullhooks and other objects to poke, prod, strike, shock, and hit animals in order to "train" them — although this may not be what's seen in the ring or in carefully-controlled public tours.
Circus representatives often claim that animals are only trained to do the types of tricks that they might naturally perform in their native habitat. But common sense dictates that elephants in the wild don't eagerly stand on their heads and that tigers don't naturally jump through hoops.
Animals in circuses spend about 11 months of the year traveling. For thousands of hours, over long distances, they may be chained while not performing, transported in vehicles that lack climate control, and forced to stand or lie in their own waste.
In the wild, elephants live in large, sociable herds and walk up to 25 miles every day. Most other wild animals found in circus settings, including lions and tigers, are also constantly on the move in their native habitats.
Animals in Circuses Pose Threats to Public Health and Safety
The conflict between the animal's instincts and the harsh realities of captivity — as well as training methods that utilize violence, fear, and intimidation — cause wild animals tremendous amounts of stress. It is little wonder that some animals rebel in rampages that injure and kill people.
Escaped circus animals pose serious threats to public safety. In addition to causing major property damage, they can place local residents at risk from potential injury.
Elephants in the circus may carry tuberculosis (TB), and can infect humans with the bacterial disease. Public records show that many circuses have a history of tuberculosis in their elephants, and that many have used TB-positive elephants in public performances.
Federal and State Laws Do Not Adequately Regulate Circuses
It might be reasonable to assume that legal safeguards are in place to protect animals in circuses. But while circuses and traveling shows must comply with the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and any applicable state and/or local laws, these regulations are neither sufficiently specific nor adequately enforced.
Every major circus that uses animals has been cited for violating the minimal standards of care set forth in the Animal Welfare Act.
Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (which enforces the AWA) have repeatedly ignored obvious physical trauma to animals, eyewitness accounts of mistreatment, and sworn testimony from former circus employees who report mistreatment of elephants.
Circuses Do Not Conserve Endangered Species
Endangered animals born in circus "conservation" programs have never been released into the wild; most are slated to become "replacement" performers. Captive breeding programs do nothing to address the real threats endangered animals face in the wild, such as poaching, trophy hunting, loss of habitat, and loss of prey.
While circuses line their pockets with money from ticket sales, wild animal populations continue to decline due to a lack of support for enforcement of protection laws, educational programs, and habitat preservation in the animals' native lands.
Despite circuses' high-minded claims, they are entertainment, not education. Watching wild animals perform unnatural tricks does not teach our children respect or appreciation for animals, nor does it help animals in the wild. Circuses teach children that it's acceptable to exploit and mistreat animals for amusement. Further, no research has shown that attending circuses increases public concern about the population status of a species or what steps are being taken to ensure its survival in the wild.
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