Life under the big top is not the "wholesome," fun-loving, educational experience the circus industry would like you to think it is. For the animals, life is a monotonous and brutal routine of boredom, stress and pain. In short, traveling animal acts perpetuate animal cruelty, inhumane care, public safety hazards and distorted images of wildlife.
Circus animals are confined virtually all of their lives in barren conditions, while forced to suffer extreme physical and psychological deprivation:
Wild animal acts also pose a significant threat to public health and safety:
Circuses such as Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus claim to actively support education and conservation of wild species. A captive life in the circus for elephants consists of shackles measuring as little as five feet in length. In the wild these elephants would have a natural territory covering up to 2,300 square miles. By spotlighting captive breeding programs in North America for animals to be used for entertainment, these circuses do nothing to raise awareness of the wild elephant's largest threat today-human encroachment into elephant territory and loss of habitat.
There was a time when a circus may have represented the only exposure a child had to a wild animal. Today, our children learn early in school and through such programs as on Animal Planet and The Discovery Channel, that wild animals live complex and fascinating lives, and have natural instincts, developed over thousands of years. When kids see the negative messages circuses send, it completely contradicts these lessons.
The circus industry claims that it only trains animals to do the types of tricks they might naturally perform in the wild. In reality, animals live their lives looking for food, sleeping, or raising their babies. Costumed bears lying on their backs spinning giant balls, tigers jumping through flames, or elephants walking on their hind legs then balancing on their heads, are not natural behaviors.
When circuses portray unnatural and inaccurate images of how wild animals live and act, in such an unrealistic context, this creates a greater disconnect between people and wild animals, promoting the notion that it's acceptable, even enjoyable to exploit animals for entertainment. Circuses perpetuate an outdated attitude that wild animals are ours to use at any cost to their welfare-an attitude that PAWS, other animal protection groups, wildlife organizations and zoos work tirelessly to counteract through outreach and education.
Read more about circuses and circus animals at the following websites: