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Animals in the Circus: A Lifetime of Misery

Using animals in circuses is an unnecessary and inhumane practice that's harmful to both the animals and the public. Unlike the human performers who choose to work in circuses, exotic animals are forced to take part in the show. They are involuntary actors in a degrading, unnatural spectacle.

While many people associate the circus with "safe, wholesome, family fun" — an association promoted aggressively by the circus PR machine — the truth is much darker. Government inspection reports reveal ongoing mistreatment of animals in circuses, as well as failures to provide the basic minimal standards of care required by law. Animals used in circuses have been injured and killed, and have injured and killed humans.

Circuses that exploit animals make lofty claims about their "educational" value and their contributions to "conservation." But the real message that these circuses send to children is that it's acceptable to abuse animals for amusement and profit.

And the conservation claims made by many circuses are merely veiled attempts to justify the exploitation of animals for commercial gain. Endangered animals born in circus "conservation" programs have never been released into the wild — they are doomed, instead, to life in captivity.

Born Free USA's circus campaign aims to end the exploitation of "performing" animals by educating both the public and key decision-makers about how animals suffer under the big top, and by pushing for legislation and policy changes that help stop circus cruelty. We are also involved in groundbreaking litigation against Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for its mistreatment of elephants. For further trial details, click here.

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