Human Crimes Against Animals, Part 6 - Circuses
An Animal Rights Article from


Dave Bernazani

(Global, including U.S.) – Caged animal psychosis, abuse, neglect, humiliation, exposure to elements while traveling and over winter, insufficient housing/activity/socialization, lack of meaningful lives.
Circus-goers rarely get a glimpse of the harsh treatment endured by animals held captive in the circus. “Trainers” routinely beat, shock, and whip captive animals to make them perform ridiculous tricks that they cannot comprehend. Violence and intimidation are part of everyday life for animals in the circus. These are all real photos taken of animals in real circuses, during a typical day. Anyone who looks at them can see that there is something inherently wrong with treating intelligent and sensitive beings like this for a few minutes of “entertainment.”

circus elephants

In a sworn affidavit to the USDA, Glen D. Ewell, a former employee of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, stated “Randy took a bullhook and began beating Nicole in the head, on the trunk and behind the front foot…until the handle of the bullhook shattered. Adam began beating her on the lumbar and hindquarter area on the right-side.”

Furthermore, another former employee of Ringling Bros. stated during his congressional testimony on June 13, 1999: “After my three years of working with elephants in the circus, I can tell you that they live in confinement and they are beaten all the time when they don’t perform properly.”

circus tigers

In addition to the use of violence and intimidation, the circus also harms animals by depriving them of their basic needs to exercise, roam, socialize, forage, and play. Stereotypical behaviors such as swaying back and forth, head-bobbing, pacing, bar-biting, and self-mutilation are common signs of mental distress displayed by animals in the circus.

circus elephant

Unfortunately, laws protecting animals in traveling shows are inadequate and poorly enforced. The Animal Welfare Act establishes only minimum guidelines, and even these meager standards are often ignored. Furthermore, the use of dangerous animals in performances jeopardizes public safety and often puts children at great risk. Since 1990, 57 people have been killed and more than 120 seriously injured by captive elephants.

On a personal note, I would like to add that I find the sight of magnificent wild animals performing degrading, unnatural tricks (like bears on motorcycles or elephants balancing on large balls) highly disturbing, sad and even grotesque. The fact that millions of humans pay to see such spectacles astounds me.
Who’s fighting it: ASPCA, HSUS, PETA,, ALDF (Animal Legal Defense Fund), ADL (Animal Defense League), Mercy for Animals,, PAWS (Progressive Animal Welfare Society), Animal Welfare Institute, Fund for Animals, CRY (Circus Reform: Yes!), API (Animal Protection Institute), Wildlife Advocacy Project (, ADI (Animal Defenders International), Equanimal (Spain), SAFE (N.Z.), ALV (Animal Liberation Victoria, Australia), Animal Rights Africa, Born Free USA, CAPS (Captive Animals’ Protection Society.
Recent progress: Many cities and counties in countries worldwide are banning circuses with animals; particularly in the U.K., although Britain unfortunately stopped short of a complete ban, allowing the so-called “Great British Circus” to continue to abuse animals, as recently exposed and documented yet again by an undercover investigation by Animal Defenders International.

And just reported in the San Diego CityBeat, Bolivia is the first country in the world to pass a law banning ALL circuses with wild animals! This is a groundbreaking first step that will now provide a model for other countries to follow.

If a developing country like Bolivia can take such a bold and enlightened step, what excuse can the (supposedly) more advanced governments have?

Go to Human Crimes Against Animals, Part 7 - China
Go to Human Crimes Against Animals - Introduction

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