Animal Rights Activists Continue the Fight Against Circus Animal Cruelty


The use of performing animals in circuses has been banned or restricted in 22 states, including Florida.

A circus is known for being a worldwide entertainment event for people of all ages. Whether it is children, teenagers, adults, or even the elderly, a circus is a place where joy is fulfilled and smiles are plastered across the faces of an audience.

The first circus was created back in England by Philip Astley, a former cavalry Sergeant-Major showman. Astley displayed incredible talent as a horse-breaker and trainer. Horses were first introduced into the show where the horse-riders and the horses would just gallop around the ring and the people of England would gather around and watch. Due to the popularity of the circus shows, Astley hired acrobats, rope-dancer, and jugglers, and soon started to build into one outstanding and famous show that is known all around the world.

The first thought that pops into one’s head when someone mentions a circus are the animals that are involved. The most anticipated moments of the show are when the animals, such as elephants, tigers, and horses, begin to display jaw dropping talents humans wouldn’t even imagine an animal being capable of. Animals have been involved in circuses for over a hundred years, but now, in modern society, citizens have been paying close attention to the treatment of circus animals and have grown a concerning feeling towards these innocent creatures.

It has been revealed that in order to force the circus animals to perform, trainers abuse them with harsh equipment such as whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bullhooks, and other pain-inducing tools. So, how do circuses continue with these harsh treatments? The circus can easily get away with this type of cruelty because the government does not fully check the training sessions that take place.

Let us not forget about how animals travel. Circuses travel almost all year long through constant weather changes. The animals are thrown into trailers or trucks, where there is barely any access to food, water, and even care. For example, elephants are chained, and big cats such as tigers are stuck in grimy cages where they eat, drink, sleep, and even do their business.

Not only do these treatments frustrate the public, but they also frustrates the animals. After years of beatings from trainers, some animals such as elephants lose their cool and rebel against the circus trainers or even the public. Elephants have run out of circuses, ran across streets, slammed into buildings, attacked the audience, and injured or killed trainers or audience members. In 2014, the Moolah Shrine Circus show in Missouri saw three elephants escape from their handlers and crashed the children’s rides. A few years earlier from, an elephant named Viola escaped from her handlers and sprinted towards the people waiting in line to buy tickets, eventually running to the parking lot.

These concerns about animal treatment and public safety have brought numerous communities together to ban circuses from using pain-inducing training tools and place severe restrictions on the use of animals altogether. The fight for cruelty-free circuses continues to gain momentum as the public becomes more aware of the animal training techniques circuses have been employing.

James Hamid Sr., a prominent producer of Shrine circuses, comments, “As we look into the future, we see all circuses moving to non-animal productions. Over the last 20 years, both through strict regulation as well as changing public sentiment, performing animal acts have begun to be a thing of the past.” There prevailing thought is becoming that there are many amazing activities that can excite the audiences without having to involve animals as circus performers standing on their heads, jumping through a ring of fire, or balancing on pedestals.

On restricting the use of circus animals, Olympic Heights senior Nora Shehadeh states, “In the view of looking at the animal’s health, I think it would be better. It is known that animals at the circus are being mentally and/or physically abused. They are being bred and live in a stressful environment. So, it would be better to now have animals at a circus.”

Considering if she would attend a circus without animals, Shehadeh explains she would go to a circus only “if they have extravagant performances. It would not depend on the animal’s presence, but rather the performance they would give.”

OH Spanish teacher Ms. Ariana Carbone comments that the animals are circus attraction she would miss, saying, “A circus without animals is boring. It’s fun to see the trained animals do tricks, but I understand why they wouldn’t have them since it’s considered animal cruelty. I would consider going to a circus without animals.”

As far as the fight goes for bans on having animals perform at circuses, 22 states, in the U.S., including Florida, have banned or restricted the use of animals in circuses. Also, 44 countries around the world have done the same. However, animal rights activists are still working to eliminate animals from circuses nationwide and globally.

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