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Say NO to Animal Circuses - FAQ's

(content sourced from PETA Kids and The Captive Animals Protection Society)

“I love seeing animals at the circus, and they don’t seem to mind performing, so why are Animal Rights groups against the use of animals in circuses?”

In his book The Circus Kings, Ringling Bros. founder Henry Ringling North noted that at circuses, tigers and lions are “chained to their pedestals, and ropes are put around their necks to choke them down and make them obey. All sorts of other brutalities are used to force them to respect their trainer and learn their tricks. They work from fear.” View Trainers abusing animals

He also wrote that trainers commonly break bears’ noses or burn their paws to force them to stand on their hind legs and that trainers beat monkeys and chimpanzees while they scream in pain.

Animals do not naturally ride bicycles, stand on their heads, or balance on balls. To force them to perform these uncomfortable tricks, trainers use whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bullhooks, and other painful tools.

How would my children learn about wild animals if we ban circuses?

There is no educational value in seeing these once proud animals in an unnatural environment. There is nothing to be learnt from seeing an elephant struggling to stand on its head whilst assailed by loud music under the glare of circus lights. The idea of publicly humiliating an animal to prove that man is capable of this sort of dominance is not fun. In fact, it is sad, depressing and irresponsible. We can learn far more from the excellent "on the spot" TV programmes which do not interfere with animals in the wild. Children should be encouraged to respect all animal life, in their natural surroundings - nature trails, adventure breaks and so on are the best way for us to achieve this.

Aren't all circus animals bred in captivity?

No. Consideration of just one type of circus animal, the elephant, reveals just how sad the inheritance of the big top really is. Far from the suggested aim of conservation, many of the circus elephants have been caught from the wild. Both species of elephants are used by circuses. Asian elephants are usually the older ones, whilst young African elephants are also used. The circuses say that these "babies" have been saved from a cull, giving the impression that the circus workers ran around dodging bullets to rescue them. In fact, many of these youngsters will have experienced the trauma of seeing their families killed, and may have been tied to their dead mothers before being collected and sold to a dealer. This is the traditional source for baby elephants. If the circuses really cared there are baby elephant orphanages in some African countries where the elephants could go. Instead they come to British circuses and zoos, to be exploited for profit.

Isn't the animals behaviour in the ring an extension of its natural activities?

No! Animals will run and jump in the wild if they choose to, not when forced to. Elephants do not stand on their heads in the wild. Baboons do not wear pants; horses do not walk on their hind legs; llamas and zebras do not live solitary lives - they live in groups. Animals in circuses live unnatural lives in an artificial environment.

They like doing tricks don't they?

Look at a frightened animal. When they are scared, dogs and cats will flatten their bodies to the ground, lower their ears so that they are lying flat back against the head and back away. Try looking at the big cats in the circus - they too are showing signs of stress and fear. Many circus animals display signs of stereotypic behaviour - this is a mindless, repetitive behaviour thought to be caused by stress and suffering, in an unnatural and unstimulating environment. If you decide to visit an animal circus to find out for yourself, you may well see similar behaviour. Cats will pace up and down in their beast wagons, or may sway from side to side. Elephants will rock back and forth, literally driven mad by their captivity. Bears, monkeys, horses, dogs, camels, in fact all species of animals confined in circuses which have been studied, have been seen to display these behaviours. Are a few stupid tricks really worth reducing these once beautiful animals to such a sorry state?

Animals are trained with kindness surely?

All training takes place behind closed doors. You don't see it, and neither do organisations such as ourselves or the RSPCA. What we really see when a circus invites us in to watch a training session, is a rehearsal. This is merely a practice for acts already learned. We have talked to ex-circus workers who have told us that animals are beaten. View our photo gallery for many photos and stories of animals that have been beaten. Also, view some undercover footage of just a couple of examples of animals being beaten as part of their "training"

If this suffering goes on, why don't circus workers speak out?

They do. There are many documented interviews and expose's initiated by ex-circus workers. We know what goes on and now you do too. Like all areas of animal suffering we need proof. The circus world is a close-knit community. They train animals in private. They do not allow video cameras to be taken into performances (we wonder why!) and if you take in a camera they will make it almost impossible for you to take photographs if they think that you are an animal welfarist.

“Don’t zoos teach children important lessons about wildlife?”

No. Zoos claim to educate people about animals, but their tiny cages and enclosures don’t allow animals to act the way that they would in the wild, and signs usually only tell visitors the names of the animals, where they can be found, and what they eat.

Even zoos with habitats that are similar to animals’ natural environments lack important things. For example, at zoos, many animals who live in large herds or family groups in the wild are kept alone or, at most, in pairs. Animals’ natural hunting and foraging behaviors are eliminated because the zoo staff develops schedules for them. And because animals at zoos lack privacy and have little opportunity for mental stimulation or physical exercise, many develop a mental illness called zoochosis, which leads to self-destructive behaviors.

Often, zoo officials focus on profits rather than the well-being of animals. A former director of the Atlanta Zoo once remarked that he was “too far removed from the animals; they’re the last thing I worry about with all the other problems.” Zoos teach people that it is acceptable to keep animals in captivity, where they are bored, cramped, lonely, far from their natural homes, and at the mercy and whim of people.

“Don’t zoos help preserve endangered species?”

Most animals in zoos are not endangered, and they aren’t being rehabilitated so that they can be released back into their natural habitats. In fact, it is nearly impossible to release captive-bred animals into the wild.

Instead of giving animals natural settings, zoos place very unnatural restrictions on them. For example, polar bears are usually confined to spaces that are only a millionth the size of their minimum home range in the wild. When placed in zoo enclosures, animals who roam long distances in nature often pace endlessly or swim in circles from boredom.

We will only save endangered species by preserving their habitats and protecting them from hunters—not by breeding a few in captivity. Instead of supporting zoos, we should support groups and organizations that work to preserve habitats and help nonprofit sanctuaries that rescue and care for exotic animals without selling or breeding them