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Circus Money "Primates in Circuses suffer many depravations"

"The exhibiting of trained animals I abhor. What an amount of suffering and cruel punishment the poor creatures have to endure in order to give a few moments of pleasure to men devoid of all thought and feeling." - Albert Schweitzer, physician and philosopher."I find circuses deeply offensive. We are just beginning to recognize animals as important in their own right. Circuses throw us back to the Middle Ages." - Desmond Morris, zoologist and animal behaviorist.

"To see a magnificent wild creature wearing a comic hat and carrying out quasi-human actions is demeaning to the animal, even if it can be proved that it is enjoying the process. It degrades because it makes it into something it is not. It reduces it to a caricature of humanity." - William Johnson, The Rose Tinted Menagerie.

Why the circus is no place for animals.
People are learning to appreciate animals for themselves. There is no need to laugh at imitation human behaviour. Since the advent of film and television, people can see animals "performing" naturally in the wild, which is much more entertaining (and educational) than watching animals coerced into performing unnatural tricks in captivity. People can also go on safari and watch animals in their natural habitat.

  • Circuses cannot transport or house animals adequately.
    Cages: Circuses travel constantly, which means the animals' cages are designed for transporting, not for animal welfare. If lions and tigers in zoos were kept in cages as small as those in circuses, it would be regarded as cruel. Many zoos have had to close because of inadequate living conditions for the animals. Circuses continue to keep animals in worse accommodation.

    An RSPCA (UK) survey revealed that circus elephants spend 60 percent of their time hobbled, with one front and one back leg on a short chain; that lions and tigers are shut in their cages over 90 percent of the time with only half a cubic metre of space per animal. (Failing to conform to cage sizes, or overcrowding, have been among the reasons for convictions for cruelty, against circuses in Australia.)

Transport: In Australia, because of the size of the country and the range of climatic conditions, traveling can be grueling for the animals. Three days lumbering across the Nullarbor in a truck is no holiday for large animals like an elephant, lion or camel.

Lack of Exercise: At the makeshift encampment, which is the usual circus site, some animals are taken out of the trailers, but they are still tied or hobbled and allowed very restricted movement. Some may be muzzled. In the interests of public safety, large carnivores like lions and tigers must remain caged. Circus sites provide inadequate space for exercise. Training sessions and brief appearances in the ring are not enough.

  • Deprivations and Cruelty
    Circus animals, besides being denied their freedom, are often denied the company of others of their kind. They suffer from endless boredom. They have no opportunity to engage in natural behaviour, which in many animals causes emotional stress and frustration, resulting in aggressive or moody behaviour, compulsive pacing, leaping or swaying and sometimes self-mutilation.
    Bears, who naturally hibernate, are unable to do so. Constantly changing environments and feed, traffic, noise and pollution may upset many animals.
    Specialised veterinary care for exotic animals is not available everywhere circuses perform.

    To ensure a "tidy" circus ring, animals may have food and water withheld before a performance. This is also part of the methods of some animals' trainers.

Circus Elefant"Bored circus elephant searching her environment for a tree to rub up against."

Training and Performance:
The public is assured by circuses that only positive (kind) methods of training work. They say that animals will not learn to perform tricks if they are cruelly treated.

Unfortunately, the use of whips, electric prods, goads with concealed spikes, choke ropes, heat and deprivation of food and water, rather than rewards, are regularly used.

For example: a lion or any other animal, would not naturally leap through a ring of fire unless afraid. The circus lion is forced to act against its natural inclinations. In the wild elephants to not balance on one foot on stools while tossing a ball aloft. In the wild bears do not roller skate or ride bicycles or do anything remotely resembling these so-called tricks.

Some circus animals are still caught in the wild, but even if animals have been bred in captivity it does not mean they have no natural inclinations. It takes many thousands of years - far longer than the circus has been in existence - to alter instinctive responses in animals.

Even if training methods are not visibly cruel, they can be psychologically stressful for the animals.

The stresses in performing: Animals are disciplined to produce certain rigid reactions to their trainers' commands. Since all circus acts with animals demand unnatural behaviour which has had to be painstakingly drilled into the animals, they are under great stress to obey. They must perform the same acts or "tricks" over and over again whether or not they want to.

That an animal, especially a lion, tiger or elephant, sometimes goes berserk and kills a trainer or keeper is scarcely surprising. Animals who escape suffer the stress of unfamiliar and hostile surroundings and people during pursuit and capture.

After the show is over: The fate of 'retired' and surplus circus animals is difficult to trace. Larger circuses may sell unwanted or old animals to smaller enterprises or to private zoos. Primates, especially chimpanzees may end up the victims of laboratory experimentation.

Investigators in the US believe that former circus animals there have been bought by game ranchers (where they are easy targets for trophy hunters), and by suppliers to exotic food restaurants.

  • Legal Protection Inadequate
    In Australia there are no adequate laws to protect animals in circuses, or their disposal when they are no longer wanted by their owners. Nevertheless, there have been a number of convictions for cruelty to animals against circus proprietors.

    The Queensland Code of Practice for the Welfare of animals in circuses (2000) in unlikely to improve the lot of circus animals very much because the itinerant nature of circuses makes it impossible to provide adequate living conditions for them.

Circuses are dangerous for animals and people.
In August 2001 in Penrith (NSW) lion tamer Geoffrey Lennon was mauled by three lions during a performance.

In September 1999 in Narre Warren (Vic) the elephant Abu belonging to Ashtons Circus fell on a 4-year-old girl.

In June 1994 the 20-month-old child of an Ashton's Circus member was attacked by a tigon (a tiger-lion cross). The child lost one arm and received serious injuries to the other.

In December 1993 Ashton's lion tamer Charlie Wang Quay received multiple stitches and lacerations when a lioness attacked him during a performance.

In June 1992 in St Marys (NSW) a tiger belonging to Robinson's Family Circus was shot dead after escaping from its cage.

In June 1991 on the Gold Coast (Qld) circus owner Bruce Russell was mauled by one of his lions during a photo session.

In August 1993 near Cardwell (Qld), a semi-trailer carrying two Sole Brother's lions collided with another circus vehicle and was stranded on the side of the road for 90 minutes. An investigation by transport officials after the accident revealed that 13 defect notices had been issued against the circus in the preceding three weeks, including one relating to faulty brakes on the truck carrying the lions.

In May 1993 in Werribee (Vic) an elephant belonging to Sole Brother's Circus was lucky to escape injury when the circus wagon she was chained to caught fire.

In August 1994 in Honolulu, a 21-year-old elephant named Tyke was shot dead after killing one trainer and bolting from the Big Top. Her desperate bid for freedom finally ended after she had been shot 86 times.

Hope for the Future
The ACT makes the keeping of exotic animals in circuses a criminal offence.
In July 1992, the Australian Capital Territory became the first place in the world to make the keeping of animals in circuses a criminal offence. Despite a change to a Liberal Government and promises to overturn the ban, the legislation remains in place, thanks to the enlightened stance of one independent representative who holds the balance of power.

Many Councils Ban Circuses: The number of municipal councils to ban visits from circuses that use exotic animals is now 35 (as at January 2001). These councils are spread across 4 states New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. In Queensland the City of Townsville has banned Russell's Free Circus from returning to their area. Animal Welfare was cited as one of the reasons for their decision.

The New Zealand campaign to persuade local boroughs to ban the use of public reserve by circuses, which use animals, has resulted in three boroughs being successfully approached.

World Wide Trend: There is an increasing trend across the world to have bans or severe restrictions placed on circuses containing exotic animals. Countries that have total bans are Israel, Sweden and Singapore. In Canada there are at least 19 cities/provinces that ban circuses containing exotic animals and in the United Kingdom there are over 200 councils that have bans. The US has many localities with outright bans and many more with varying levels of restrictions.

Circus Promoter's Research Shows Animal Acts Are Unnecessary: In 1993 a survey of 375 residents from Queensland rural centre's was conduced for entrepreneur Michael Edgley on behalf of Edgley Ventures. Researchers found that 61 percent of people planning to see the Moscow Circus would be just as likely to go if there were no exotic animal acts. Almost half those surveyed stated that the absence of all animals would either make no difference (38 percent) or would increase (9 percent) their desire to see a circus.

Circuses without animals are just as thrilling
There are plenty of thrills in a circus without animals. People go to circuses to watch a spectacle of human skills and daring, as in the trapeze acts. As in any entertainment involving danger, part of the thrill is in the anticipation of disaster (so many trapeze artists do not use a safety net).

In the "dangerous animal" acts there is spectator identification with the tiger and lion "tamers", the elephant and bear trainers, who appear to have mastered the animals, but who just might fatally lose control.

Many very successful circuses overseas and in Australia do not use animal acts. In Australia, there are the very popular Flying Fruit Fly Circus, Circus Oz and the Women's Circus. Overseas there are circuses without animals in Europe, UK and Canada.

What Can You Do?

Write polite letters to both the editors of the local and state papers. This gets the message across to a large number of people at one time.

Write letters to your local council asking that they consider joining the other councils nationwide in placing a ban on leasing land to circuses using exotic animals. This is an important tool in helping to raise awareness of both the council and councilors as to the issues that surround the cruelty and suffering the animals endure.

If you see a circus that uses exotic animals please contact us at Animal Liberation Qld as soon as possible with the relevant details.

Take a camera or video camera with you and take photos or footage of the animals and their conditions. Remember to take note of the day, date, time and place, plus any other details you think would help. Contact Animal Liberation or Animals Australia, Circus Watch WA or the RSPCA with your information.

Collect a petition from and get it filled out, please contact the office to get a copy sent to you. The more the message gets out to the public in all manner of ways the more people think about the plight and suffering of these beautiful creatures, the more people will boycott circuses that use animals.

Check out web sites dedicated to the rights of animals for ongoing information relating to the activities planned for the future.

Tell your family, friends, neighbours, mates, school friends and workmates why animals in circuses suffer, how the conditions are cruel and why the use of exotic animals in circuses must stop.

Always boycott any circus using animals. By paying, your money contributes to the continued suffering so instead, support cruelty free human circuses like Circus OZ or Cirque du Soliel.

Johnson, William, The Rose Tainted Menagerie, Heretic Books (UK), 1990.
Clunies-Ross, T., Circus Can Survive Without Animals, Animals Today, Vol.3.3 Aug-Oct 1995.
RSPCA UK, Leaflet.
Animal Defense League, Canada, Letter to Ottawa Citizen, 8/94.


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