Why do animals in the circus get abused?

People ask, ‘why do animals in the circus get abused?’ – so I’m going to try and answer the question in this post. I accept that we all have our own points of view.

The first point to make is that not all animals in circuses get abused. However, you can successfully argue that the simple fact of using animals, invariably iconic and large animals, in a circus is automatically animal abuse because their life is spent in cages and captivity while they are trained to entertain spectators. All of this is so unnatural that it is very likely to cause stress and depression.

Circus big cats
Circus big cats
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

This leads me to another reason why circus animals are sometimes abused in their interactions with humans.

As mentioned, the circus animal has been placed in a situation where he/she is meant to entertain people. The animals are being used by people. This means that they are dominated by people who want to make money out of them. This is one short step to overt, individual acts of animal abuse.

I would argue that circus workers are sometimes insensitive to animal emotions and health. They might not believe that animals feel pain and have emotions.

Often the workers at zoos are uneducated. Rarely they are unpleasant people who enjoy their domination over large, strong animals. Perhaps they are weak people who want to take out their anger on the animals. I believe also that, rarely, some circus people like to dominant and humiliate tigers for their satisfaction as it boosts their weak ego.

Another point worth making is that circus big cats are dangerous and intimidating. Humans working with them are likely to be anxious and fearful. Those emotions can lead to aggressive behavior towards the animals.

But the underlying culture of circus life with respect to animals fosters abuse. It only takes the presence of the wrong type of worker to turn this culture into animal abuse. The circus culture feeds animal abuse because it is an abuse of animals.

Beautiful, brave and strong, large wild cats are reduced to performing party tricks inbetween living in small, seedy cages. It depends how you perceive it all. Many people love to see circus animals. Kids certainly do. But kids are not yet educated enough to see the reality of it.

The idea of circus animals is passé. It is over. We did that in an age when humans were less enlightened. Circus animals are being phased out in the West.

Circus owners would argue that they do all that they can for animal welfare. And they genuinely believe it sometimes. It is a failed argument because what they are doing, as mentioned, is by default an abuse of animals from any standpoint. As soon as people start to directly use animals (as opposed to watching them in the wild) they have begun to exploit and abuse them. This can lead to further abuse through disprespect and low ethical standards.

2 thoughts on “Why do animals in the circus get abused?”

  1. Zoos have taken huge strides and made available many animal species that allows anyone to learn to appreciate a living creature in front of you. Education is part of all real biological parks as is conservation along with providing the animals the a lifestyle that is as enriched as possible. A circus cannot reproduce those living conditions no matter how hard they try. I will tell you that 25 years ago I had the privilege of being in a big top tent while the elephants were being used to raise it. The were going about knocking poles upright with no supervision and working as a team with no handlers mistreating them with the hooks and poles you hear about. I was taken aback at their immense intelligence. The reality of their lives I also witnessed later when they were chained in by their legs and left there for hours. Because I have had horses most of my life I recognized right away the stress behaviors of weaving , zoning out and what horse people call stable vices seen most often in horses left stalled but for work. Big cats are never tame and relegated from cage to cage. We know now that an elephants social needs are difficult on the best day to be met at the best zoo. If the circus can’t reinvent itself for 2017 then it’s time for them to go.


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