The animals we forget: Life in the circus


All over the world many animals are forced to perform tricks in the circus. Most of these tricks are unnatural for the animal in question and often represent human behaviours, such as cycling. It is thought that training largely utilises fear and dominance as a way of ensuring animals behave as they are supposed to in front of live audiences. Ex-trainers have revealed, as suspected, that many circus animals are subject to mistreatment and abuse.

Animals found in the circus industry include:  Tigers, Lions, Parrots, Elephants, Monkeys, Rhinos and Zebras.

Alongside strict training regimes, being part of the circus is detrimental to animals in many other ways. In order to tour, animals are often kept in small, unnatural environments for long periods of time such as cages. Repeated exposure to cramped conditions alongside boredom elevate stress and cause serious health problems, including the development of abnormal behaviours. One of the organisations working hard to bring an end to the use of animals in circuses is the Born Free Foundation ( Born Free have helped to expose some of the unacceptable conditions circus animals are forced to endure and continue to campaign against the use of animals in circuses.

Progression towards animal free circuses in the UK

To date, 23 countries around the world have banned the use of wild animals in circuses excluding the UK. In Wales, the government are considering banning the use of circus animals, following release of a report that found the conditions faced by circus animals do not meet their optimal welfare requirements. Since the report was released in July 2016, a new Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs was appointed, who will need to take forward the issue if a ban is to go ahead. In Scotland, meanwhile, the government have now pledged to introduce a bill which will ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in Scotland. This came after a public consultation in which 98% of participants supported a complete ban of circus animals. Whilst there are no circuses in Scotland, historically circuses have been allowed to tour within Scotland or stop over. In England, despite well supported campaigns, animal circuses are still allowed to tour. It is hoped the government will follow in Scotland’s footsteps and soon implement a total ban.

What you can do

To see how you can help, visit Born Free’s circus campaign, where you can find action pages for England, Scotland wales and Northern Ireland.


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