Let’s make this very clear - the circus is NO fun for animals! Although many circus troupes claim that their trainers care deeply for the animals they keep and adhere to the highest possible welfare standards; the lengthy track-record of Animal Welfare tells a very different story. Many of the well-known circus troupes have had their name and reputation tarnished by animal abuse allegations or the sordid, cramped conditions they call home for 'their animals’.
You cannot escape the fact that any animal forced to perform for the entertainment of humans is living a life utterly opposed to the one nature intended. Elephants are meant to roam the plains of Africa and Asia, not do handstands. Tigers are meant run and hunt, not spend their life, confined in a cage.
Of course, these unnatural conditions have a massive detrimental impact on the animals who exhibit a wide range of mental and physical problems. So, before you buy a ticket for your family to a circus with ‘animal entertainers’ please consider what the animals are forced to endure for your entertainment.
Obesity - So you thought this was only a human only condition? … Wrong!, you see by forcing sedentary habits on wild animals we also forced upon them some of the challenges we face as a species. Elephants in the circus are restricted and held by chains when they are not performing. Worse, during what is called the “breaking process’ - Calves around 18 months old, are chained for up to 23 hours a day.
A wild Elephant will walk up to 30 miles a day – probably more than a captive elephant will walk in its entire life! With such little exercise elephants are prone to obesity, that affects their health in a very similar way as it does humans.
Arthritis - Another disease suffered by humans that we inflict on captive animals. If you or someone you know suffers from Arthritis you will understand it can be a very debilitating condition - now imagine having to spend over 20 hours a day - every day - stood on a cold concrete floor!
A survey of 62 Asian elephants and 5 African elephants across three different circuses and five zoos found captive elephants exhibit, “a high incident of rheumatoid disorders,” and chronic arthritis and lameness. Foot problems and lameness is the leading cause of euthanasia for captive elephants.
Starvation and Dehydration - This may surprise you, surely, the animals are feed? But starvation and dehydration are methods used for training many animals, including dolphins and orca and big cats like lions and tigers. Called “Operant Conditioning,” this form of training follows the negative enforcement method of teaching. In order to get the animals to perform reliably, on command, trainers will deprive them of food and water to establish their dominance. They are only fed when they comply with the trainer's demands.
Sores and Skin conditions - A circus can travel for up to 48 weeks of the year. The animals are confined in their cages, which are far too small for them when travelling. Brown bears and big cats are typically kept in 5×10 foot steel cages. Parts of the bodies are constantly in contact with the cages so sores and abrasions on their paws, legs, sides and rumps are inevitable.
Tuberculosis (TB) - A condition we are well aware of at Save Me, but one, you may not have expected in circus animals. All mammals can carry TB. Elephants can carry human tuberculosis (TB), a bacterial disease that is the leading infectious cause of human deaths worldwide. This potentially fatal zoonotic disease can spread through the air, which puts anyone near an infected animal—elephant and human alike—at risk of transmission.
Zoonotic Diseases - A zoonotic disease is one that can be transmitted from animals to humans. In addition to Tuberculosis, mentioned above, other zoonotic diseases, as advised by the UK government are Anthrax, Giardiasis, Lyme disease, Pasteurellosis, Tickborne encephalitis, Toxocariasis, Tularemia and Ebola. There are many more, some, commonly carried by domestic pets such as dogs and cats.
Genetic Defects - White Tigers are big attractions in circuses and zoos - but you won’t find one in the wild. The ONLY way to produce a tiger or a lion with a white coat is through inbreeding brother to sister or father to daughter; generation after generation after generation.This severe inbreeding is the only way to produce the mutation of a white coat but also causes a number of other defects in these big cats.
The same gene that causes the white coat causes the optic nerve to be wired to the wrong side of the brain, thus all white tigers are cross eyed, even if their eyes look normal. They also often suffer from club feet, cleft palates, spinal deformities and defective organs. The white coat comes from a double recessive gene so most of the cubs born through this inbreeding have normal colouring but they still suffer the same defects. They are often referred to by breeders as “throw away tigers.” They are often killed at birth because only white tigers are big money makers. White tigers are crossbred between Bengal and Siberian tigers.
Stereo Typical Behaviours - Zoochosis
The mental stress and frustration exhibited in circus animals in captivity is known as “zoochosis.” A term, first used in 1992 by Bill Travers who founded the Born Free Foundation. Being deprived of their natural environments, behaviours, and stimuli, animals start to mentally shut down to cope with the overwhelming stress. This manifests itself in a number of abnormal physical displays, such as stereotypic ‘circling’ and ‘figure of 8’ movement within the cage, incessant grooming, bar-biting, and self-destructive behaviours including refusal to eat, and self-harm.
Wild animals do not belong in captivity. To keep them confined purely for our entertainment - is certainly, immoral, but we believe should also be illegal.
We are calling on the UK Government to ban the use of animals in circuses and all form of entertainment for human pleasure. There is no educational or conservation benefit from captive animals used for entertainment.