When I was a little kid I thought it would be so cool to go to a circus, getting to see big animals up close like that. My parents always said no, telling me we couldn’t go because they were “mean” to animals there. Instead, they brought me to Noah’s Lost Ark Animal Sanctuary… so I could see the big animals up close. I still wanted to go to a circus and didn’t believe my parents about animal cruelty. Then one day when I was 10 years old I turned on a documentary on Animal Planet about cruelty in circuses, and now I can never think of one the same way.
In the U.S alone there are still six major circuses abusing animals. These circuses run year-round, keeping animals in cages or trailers for days at a time in extreme temperatures. They are often without basic necessities such as food, water, and veterinary care. Elephants are chained up on tight chains, and big cats, bears, and primates are in small cages where they eat, sleep, drink, urinate, and defecate in the same spots. They spend 11 months a year on the road, and relief does not come when they get to the venue. They continue to be tied up and caged, but just in basements instead of trucks and trailers.
The abuse that goes into training these animals to do unnatural tricks is baffling. Animals are first trained with cruelty, then food. Therefore, animals are underfed so that they will do the tricks to get the food. Big cats often have their teeth and claws removed so that they don’t attack the trainer. This causes them acute and chronic pain. They are also trained with a whip so that they are afraid of the trainer and don’t attack. Animals are also beaten and shocked to be frightened into doing the tricks, some trainers even drug the animals to make them more “manageable.” They use bullhooks on the elephants, which are long, sharp, curved pieces of metal that they hit them on sensitive areas with. These punishment methods can not only damage animals physically, but emotionally too. These people are breaking the spirits of strong, powerful animals, and forcing them to live in fear.
When I say animals are forced to participate in unnatural tricks, I mean they are forced to do tricks some humans may not do. The long list includes balancing on balls, riding bicycles, riding motorcycles, jumping through rings of fire, dancing, jumping, smoking, standing on two legs, and the list continues. Animals do not choose to do these tricks, they do them out of pure fear. These animals are turned into puppets for our entertainment.