in Circuses suffer many depravations"
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
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
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.
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
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.)
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.
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.
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 elephant searching her environment for a tree to rub
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
are dangerous for animals and people.
In August 2001 in Penrith (NSW) lion tamer Geoffrey Lennon was
mauled by three lions during a performance.
September 1999 in Narre Warren (Vic) the elephant Abu belonging
to Ashtons Circus fell on a 4-year-old girl.
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.
December 1993 Ashton's lion tamer Charlie Wang Quay received
multiple stitches and lacerations when a lioness attacked him
during a performance.
June 1992 in St Marys (NSW) a tiger belonging to Robinson's
Family Circus was shot dead after escaping from its cage.
June 1991 on the Gold Coast (Qld) circus owner Bruce Russell
was mauled by one of his lions during a photo session.
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.
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.
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.
for the Future
The ACT makes the keeping of exotic animals in circuses a criminal
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Can You Do?
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.
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.
you see a circus that uses exotic animals please contact
us at Animal Liberation Qld as soon as possible with the
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.
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
out web sites dedicated to the rights of animals for
ongoing information relating to the activities planned for
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
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
AND FURTHER READING:
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,