Circus Tigers

by Michael

Photo by wolfsavard (Flickr)

Photo by wolfsavard (Flickr)

About 40 years ago only a few people gave a second thought as to whether circus tigers were a bad thing. The world has changed and people are becoming more sensitive to what is right for the animal not what we find entertaining. One recent reason for this shift in opinion might be due to an awakening to the impact that humankind’s activities are having on the planet. I am thinking of global warming. This might be putting some of us in touch with nature where once it was out of our minds.

jakarta circus tigers

There is also the gradual realisation that tigers in the wild are at a tipping point where it might be impossible to prevent their extinction. This focuses attention on the tiger and may, in part, account for a recent story of the death of eight tigers, two of which were Siberian tigers and one lion.

All were circus big cats. They were killed by either:

  • asphyxiation by exhaust fumes
  • by exposure to too much heat
  • or food poisoning

People are not sure of the cause of death but what is certain is that their deaths were preventable and the cause is due to carelessness, which ever way you look at it. They were being transported in a lorry. The tigers commenced the 20 hour journey (at Neryungri, I understand – see map below) alive and were dead at its end.

Two questions are thrown up by this disaster. Two of the tigers were Siberian tigers. Their natural habitat is on the east coast of Russia surrounding Vladivostok. The effective population of this tiger is a fraction (35) of the actual population (about 300). Where are the replacement tigers going to come from? The wild, other circuses or zoos? Are the many circuses in Russia partly responsible for keeping the wild Siberian tiger on the edge of extinction?

I don’t know whether the circuses in Russia have a negative impact on the population of wild tigers. Six of the tigers killed were Bengal tigers, a species of tiger suffering a dangerous decline in population.

There is a growing general consensus that circus tigers are a throwback to a different age. Times have changed and a rethink is due. There is talk of banning circus tigers and other performing animals in travelling circuses in England and Wales.

A government consultation is being started (on 24th Dec 2009). The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (UK) is considering a ban or self-regulation. It would seem that the ban can be effected under existing law, the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Bolivia is ahead of the game. There, the authorities have already banned animals from circuses on the basis that it is an act of cruelty. Circuses in Bolivia have until July 2010 to remove animals.

circus tiger poster
Photo by arimoore

"The idea that it is funny to see wild animals coerced into acting like clumsy humans, or thrilling to see powerful beasts reduced to cringing cowards by a whipcracking trainer is primitive and medieval. It stems from the old idea that we are superior to other species and have the right to hold domnion over them."

- Dr. Desmond Morris, anthropologist, animal behaviorist, author

Circus Tigers to Wild Cat Species

I argue fair use in quoting Desmond Morris.

Comments for
Circus Tigers

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Dec 23, 2011 wtf
by: tiger

why do we have to stand and see these tigers get abused whoever thinks this is cute are morons end quote>......<


Dec 26, 2009 I hate circuses
by: Ruth aka Kattaddorrra

Even as a child I would never be taken to a circus.I hate to see animals which should be living free in their natural habitat, forced to do degrading acts merely to amuse people and make money for the circus owners.
My sis(Barbara)and I,along with many others, have protested long and loud for many years and hope to see performing animals come to an end, in our lifetime.
She actually helped bring about a ban on giving goldfish for prizes in showgrounds !
So it can be done !


Dec 26, 2009 Hi Jan
by: Michael

Well, I have been to the circus myself years ago when they were considered OK. Then I realised that these animals are confined and made to perform for our entertainment. I, though, have strong feelings about animals.

However, some people say that there is no scientific evidence that circus life is bad for wild animals. This has been disproved by the killing of 8 tigers as mentioned in the story.

I just feel that it is wrong and the general feeling these days is that it is out of step with modern life.


Dec 26, 2009 A different age
by: Finn Frode, Denmark

You are right that circus tigers are a throwback at a different age.
I vaguely remember seeing tigers and lions in the circus when I was a boy, but since the early 60's wild animals have been banned from circus here as in the rest of Scandinavia. There was a novelty about seeing these great cats, and in those days the animals of the zoo were actually not much better off in their crammed cages.
Since then zoos and animal parks have improved conditions a lot - not just for the sake of animal welfare, but also because we prefer to see the animals in more "natural" environments.
I have no problem with modern zoos, as they serve to give us a better understanding and also may be the last refuge for some threatened species.
But the idea of having six or eight tigers seeted close to each other in a circus ring, jumping through hoops at their trainer's command is so out of character. It does not tell us anything about the big cat, but probably something about the trainer's ego and our own need to be thrilled by the fear of what may happen.


Dec 25, 2009 Tigers,and lions,and bears..
by: Jan Plant

Sadly,I'm very guilty of going to the circus.For many years now friends of mine and i have made it a tradition.This year we will also be there,but for a whole new reason and without the children.We were going to picket Ringlings treatment of their elephants,on which I wrote an article about information I received from PETA. Now ,once I speak with my friends,we'll be picketing for more then just the abused baby elephants.The circus will be in San Antonio,Texas the second week of June.I know this because,we have always bought our tickets a week in advance.This year the ticket money will be put to a better use.Thank you,MIchael, for opening our eyes.



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