Cruelty to Animals in the Circus

Categories: Animals

When I was younger, I loved going to the circus. Seeing the animals was my favorite part. I want to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus in the fourth grade. I was even called up to perform a magic trick. Being up close, I noticed that the animals seemed agitated by how their trainers were treating them. Watching these animals, I realized I did not like the circus. These animals are physically abused, mentally abused, and are jeopardizing not only their safety but peoples as well.

Protesters are letting their voices be heard to end the abuse.

Finally, the government is starting to do something about it. Circuses have been receiving backlash for years for using animals in their performances; it’s time that the people’s voices be heard about stopping the abuse of these wild animals because they were never meant to perform for the world. Of course, many will probably disagree in that people who go to circuses do not see animals are being abused by their trainers.

Douglas McPherson, the writer of “Circus Animals – 10 Reasons the Show Must Go On”, is a firm believer that animals with circuses must continue. One of the ten reasons he states is “Circus animals lead rewarding lives…Training and performances are organized play, like throwing a stick for a dog…” (McPherson). McPherson’s point is that these animals are leading happy and healthy lives that can sometimes be rewarding. Although it may seem like these animals are not being abused, circuses only allow you to see the performances not the abuse that goes on behind the scenes.

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These are wild animals not domesticated house pets.

The more awareness that is being brought to the neglect to circus animals, the more people are starting to do something to change it. Natasha Daly’s article, “Why All of America’s Circus Animals Could Soon Be Free” addresses the closing of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus because of the way they treat their animals. She talks about how the government has acknowledged and how they have taken action to protect the animals that are forced into the circus light. Daly states that “In late march, … the Travleing Ecotic Animal and Public Saftey Protection Act (TEAPSPA) [was introduced]” (Daly). This was a huge step in saving these animals.

“If the bill passes, it will end life on the road for more than 200 [animals]… Thirty-four other countries have instituted similar bans, as have dozens of cities and counties in the U.S.,..” (Daly). Congress decided it was time to protect these animals, they aim “ to amend the Animal Welfare Act to restrict the use of exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses and traveling exhibitions” (“Traveling Exotic Animals”). I believe since these animals do not have a voice we need to be their voice and end the abuse that they endure daily. Bringing people’s attentions to what is going on will create a greater following which could possibly mean shutting down circuses with animals. The biggest concern to protesters is the physical abuse these animals go through.

Cherry Bligh talks about the physical abuse these animals go through in her article. She states “Training circus animals involves physically punishing them. These training practices generally will be hidden from public view to make the audiences believe these animals want to and are willing to perform” (Bligh). Circuses know that if they show the abuse in their shows people will stop coming. The abuse they endure before the show is why in performances we see the animals obey the command they are given because they do not want to be abused. Bligh makes another statement saying that “Animals in the circus are routinely whipped, beaten with long metal rods, shocked with electric prods, and struck with clubs” (Bligh).

These circuses use these weapons to make an imprint of what not to do. The equipment they use scar the animals but we do not see it during the performance because they are not up close and sometimes their costumes cover it. I feel that circuses abuse their animals in order to get them to submit to the tricks they want them to do. This trained the animals to think that if they do the trick their reward is not getting punished. These punishments causes the animals to retaliate, but all people think is the animal is to blame for the outbreak of aggression. These circus animals endure a lot of mental abuse. Animals living conditions and treatment while in the circus is affecting their emotions..

Animal welfare states “experts have found that its grueling and stressful for animals to always be on the road, confined to tight spaces, and made to perform before screaming audiences” (Daly). These animals are born to live in the wild in open space. By having these confined spaces and stressful environments is taking a toll on their mental health. Especially since they are constantly on the road, performing, or training is is a non stop cycle of stress.

Cherry Bligh, the writer of the article “Good Riddance Ringling Bros.”, states that “Many circus animals become dysfunctional, healthy, depressed, and aggressive as a result of unnatural and unrelenting confinement in which they are kept and treated (Bligh). This unnatural environment is not what they were made for.

These environments are built for the convenience of traveling and performing non stop, they are not built to the comfort of the animals.Being put in these situations causes emotional outbreaks that could make the animals harm itself, other animals, or people. I believe that the mental abuse that is put onto these animals are unnecessary. By putting these animals in these situations is causing stress on the animals which is translating into aggressive outbreaks. The conditions that these animals are forced to be can cause aggression. This aggression puts the animals and the people around the animals in danger.

In Cherry Bligh’s LCA article she says that “Wild animals behave instinctively and unpredictable. Circus animals have run amok through streets, crashed into buildings, attacked member of the public, and killed and injured handlers” (Bligh). These attacks are not an “accident”. These animals are being driven to act out and these episodes are injuring innocent people who were at the wrong place at the wrong time. Kim Robinson, the writer of the “Public Safety and the Ineffectiveness of Circus Recapture Plans”, wrote a statement on how circus animals are a danger to the public and their trainers. Kim states, “The use of wild animals in circuses and traveling show is inherently dangerous, particular to circus staff who work with the animals, and to children who come into contact with them through rides and photo opportunities” (Robinson pg 1).

The animals handlers are always in danger whether they realize it or not. They are dealing with a wild animal that can lash out any moment. But, children may not know any better and a child could get seriously injured if an animals is agitated. I feel that putting people in harm’s way for entertainment is not worth it for the animals or people. These are just accidents waiting to happen because no one knows how these wild animals will react in any given moment. My close encounter with the circus has made me from my opinion about circuses with animals.

I have stopped going to circuses with animals and have started to going to all human circuses like Cirque du Soleil. These animals have been abused for years. People have gone to circus events to protest to show people what is going on behind the curtains. They have even started foundations to help bring awareness and power in numbers to shut down circuses with animals. These animals are subjected to torture that scar them for the rest of their lives. Once they are in the circus light there is no getting out of it.

Protecting circuses to stop using animals in their shows allows stops this brutality for the curant animals and for animals in the future. Instead these animals will be able to live their lives in nature. As some people say, you can take the animal out of the wild, but you can not take the wild out of the animals.

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Cruelty to Animals in the Circus. (2022, May 01). Retrieved from

Cruelty to Animals in the Circus
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