Circus Animals -Cruelty or Entertainment?

Stop Circos Canarias plan to demonstrate this Saturday 22nd 4.30pm-8.30pm

Where are your voices? Is this public cruelty acceptable to you?  Where are all the so-called animal protection charities now?  Will they not join the protestors, ordinary men and women of Gran Canaria, who stand against this very visible cruelty?  

We at this publication stand opposed to the use of animals for any kind of entertainment, exhibition or performance where injury, pain or suffering is likely to be caused. We believe that animals used in performances must be treated with respect, and not objectified, or subjected to indignity or ridicule.  What are your thoughts?

In the specific case of circuses, we stand opposed to the continued use of non-domesticated (exotic) animals, such as lions and non-human primates (monkeys), because the requirements of circus life are not compatible with the physiological, social and behavioural needs of these animals. Our view is based on ample and verified scientific evidence that no circus, no matter how well managed, can provide an appropriate environment for wild animals. Animals kept in travelling cages or cramped spaces have no place in a modern caring society.

Animals kept for prolonged periods in close confinement, in artificial social groups and continually being transported between circus venues for the duration of their performing lives do not and cannot develop normally. All for the purpose of entertainment. The life of a circus animal leads to stress, boredom and often results in abnormal behaviours, such as repetitive pacing or swaying. Even when wild animals have been captive-bred for many generations they still retain their ‘wildness’ and should not be considered domesticated.

Captive lions require regular stimulation and show severe signs of boredom and frustration when kept in the restricted environment of a circus pen.

Unless there is strong and active discouragement from the local community, circuses will continue to breed and train wild animals for the sole purpose of performing. There is an increasing trend worldwide for a ban on the use of wild animals in circuses, with more than 50 countries already having imposed national or local bans. Animal welfare is usually cited as the main reason. Many local councils have prohibited circuses with exotic animals and in some cases, circuses with any animals from performing on council lands. Supporting action to prevent circuses using wild animals from appearing on council land sends a clear message that this outmoded activity is no longer acceptable to modern 21st century society.

While exotic animals remain in circuses, any improvement in their welfare, such as the adoption of national standards, is welcomed. However, such standards reflect minimum requirements and do not address the fundamental problems of keeping wild animals in circuses. Neither do the standards set a timetable for the phasing out of wild animals in circuses.

Wild animals in circuses

The view of the UKs Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

The British RSPCA don’t believe animals should be subjected to the conditions of circus life either. Regular transport, cramped and bare temporary housing, forced training and performance, loud noises and crowds of people are often unavoidable realities for the animals.

Travelling circus life is likely to have a harmful effect on animal welfare, as captive animals are unable to socialise, get enough exercise or exhibit natural behaviours.

Many animals develop behavioural and/or health problems as a direct result of the captive life that they are forced to lead.  A recent report commissioned by the Welsh Government concluded that ‘Life for wild animals in travelling circuses…does not appear to constitute either a ‘good life’ or a ‘life worth living’.

The RSPCA has been campaigning for a complete ban of wild animals used in circuses, for many years now.

Wild circus animals are usually captive bred but this does not mean that they are tame.

It takes thousands of years for animals to become domesticated and the wild animals used to perform in circuses have the same needs as they would in the wild. These needs simply cannot be met in a travelling circus environment.

When on tour, circus animals such as camels will spend their time in animal tents, in fenced off areas to graze, or tethered to graze.

Should a circus choose to add big cats or other larger wild animals to their performance they would be confined to ‘beast wagons’ or chained within trucks.

For a small percentage (approximately one percent) of the day they are asked to perform in front of a crowd before returning to their cramped living conditions.

Travelling circuses are unable to meet the needs of a wild animal. The RSPCA have been campaigning for a complete ban but need your help.

Many countries have already banned wild animals in circuses. European neighbours Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Malta, the Netherlands, Slovenia as well as several countries further afield (Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Israel, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Serbia, Singapore) have all successfully banned the use of wild animals in circuses.

On March 31 the conference “Use of Wild Animals in Circuses: Time for a Change” was co-hosted at the European Parliament by Marlène Mizzi MEP (Malta, S&D), the Intergroup on the Welfare and Conservation of Animals, and Eurogroup for Animals, and sent a clear message to the EU: the public support for using wild animals in circus shows is long gone and the European Commission must act to ban this outmoded and unethical entertainment across all Member States without exception.

The European widespread public outcry about the use of animals in circuses’ performances highlights the need for introducing a European ban. More than half of the EU states have already adopted national legislations aimed at banning wild animals in circuses along with more than 50 States in the world.

In 2015, the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) published a position paper on the use of animals in travelling circuses stating the needs of non-domesticated, wild mammals cannot be met within a travelling circus. Nancy De Briyne, FVE Deputy Executive Director, says “wild animals have very specific needs given that their genetic makeup is the same as their counterparts in the wild and they have the same natural instinctive behaviours and needs. As such, FVE recommends European and National authorities to prohibit the use of wild mammals in travelling circuses”.

The FVE position on the use of animals in travelling circuses

The use of any animal species (including birds, reptiles, and domesticated species) in any entertainment, travelling or otherwise, should be submitted to scientific and ethological consideration.

The use of wild mammals, especially elephants, big cats (lions and tigers) in travelling circuses reflects a traditional, but outdated, view of wild animals. These animals have the same genetic makeup as their counterparts in the wild and retain their natural instinctive behavioural drives and needs. The needs of non-domesticated, wild mammals cannot be met within a travelling circus; especially in terms of housing and being able to express normal behaviours.

There is little or no educational, conservational, research or economic benefit derived from the use of wild mammals in travelling circuses that might justify their use. In addition to the welfare considerations, the use of wild mammals in circuses can represent serious animal health and public health and safety risks. These wild mammals can cause physical injury to the public and their keepers and zoonotic disease transmission. *Public polls show that an overwhelming majority of the public backs a ban on wild animals performing in circuses.

Many European countries, such as Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Slovenia, Poland, the Netherlands and Malta, have already prohibited the use of all (wild) animals in circuses. Other countries are currently examining a prohibition e.g. the UK, or have severely restricted the number of species permitted in travelling circuses, e.g. Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Portugal, Norway, Slovakia and Sweden.

FVE, aiming to “promote animal health, animal welfare and public health across Europe” therefore recommends: all European and national competent authorities to prohibit the use of wild mammals in travelling circuses across Europe since there is by no means the possibility that their physiological, mental and social requirements can adequately be met.

Suitable sunset provisions, re-housing opportunities and in some cases, as last resort, euthanasia need to be worked out with the circus owners.

* Public polls: UK YouGovPol 2013, Malta 2012 MaltaOnline, Spain 20minutos 2009, Germany Gfk