A brief Introduction for Members of Congress
Traveling Shows Cannot Meet the Needs of Wild Animals
Evidence and studies over the past twenty years makes it clear that, even with the best of intentions, traveling circuses simply cannot provide wild and exotic animals with the facilities they need to maintain health and welfare.
Traveling shows are constantly on the move and therefore, of necessity, animal accommodation must be small, lightweight, collapsible and easy to transport. For the animals, this means restrictions on space to move around and barren environments with nothing to interest or engage the animals.
Under this business model, the animals endure long periods of confinement in small spaces; physical and social deprivation; boredom; brutal control methods and physical violence. Additional stressors for animals in shows include noise; lights; careless positioning of prey animals in sight of predators, inappropriate social groupings and public contact.
The stress suffered by wild animals in traveling shows results in abnormal, stereotypic behaviors, such as repetitive pacing or swaying or bobbing heads. These are common abnormalities seen in circus animals and indicate an animal is not coping with their environment. Such behaviors are not seen in the wild.
There is no conclusive evidence that animals in circuses habituate to travel and the stress of constant travel can be exhibited in ways that are not immediately apparent.
No life worth living
Captivity does not alter the nature of wild and exotic animals in circuses and they can be unpredictable and dangerous. ADI’s studies have found that increased levels of violence towards wild animals is often linked to their unwillingness and workers’ fear when handling them. Although all circus animals certainly suffer, the nature of domestic animals such as horses and dogs has been altered by human intervention over thousands of years; they are more compliant and habituated to humans.
It is a myth that circus animals are trained with kindness and reward. The tools of the trade include whips, goads, shovels, pitchforks, iron bars, bullhooks, and electric shock devices; most anything will suffice as a weapon. This is evidenced in numerous reports and videos.
In 2016, a comprehensive report analyzed the latest science and industry worldwide
(consulting 658 experts/organizations), to conclude: “Life for wild animals in travelling circuses and mobile zoos does not appear to constitute either a ‘good life’ or a ‘life worth living’.” (Harris, The Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses, University of Bristol (2016))
Safety and Regulatory Oversight:
Time consuming, expensive, unworkable
Placing large, chronically stressed wild animals in close proximity to audiences in temporary, collapsible accommodation also risks public safety and has proven disastrous. Circus workers, and members of the public, including children, have been killed and maimed by circus animals and lions, tigers and elephants have all escaped.
Federal oversight of traveling animal acts is costly, problematic, and unmanageable. The Office of the Inspector General has reported that difficulties of oversight include: inspector deficiencies; inadequate follow-up compounded by difficulties over circus travel itineraries; failure to consult animal experts and an educational approach that has proved ineffectual
(USDA APHIS Audit Reports, Office of Inspector General (2014, 2010)). These failings leave animals, workers and the public unprotected.
No Jobs Lost With Animal Circus Bans
- Like all American businesses, circuses need to change with the times to stay relevant and profitable.
- An educated public prefers to see humane entertainment; around 20 human-performance circuses tour the US and while animal circus attendance is in decline, human-performance shows are growing.
- Human-only performance shows create jobs without exposing citizens to stressed and abused animals. Most workers already fulfill multiple roles and staff can be redeployed.
- Studies have shown that of a two-hour show, typically wild animals appear for less than 15 minutes.
Local and National Action
- 71 US jurisdictions (in 27 states) have some form of ban or restriction on wild animal acts.
- More than 2/3 of Americans say they’re “concerned” by the use of animals in circuses. (2015 Gallup poll, at http://www.gallup.com/poll/183275/say-animals-rights-people.aspx.)
- 34 nations have banned or restricted the use of either all, or wild animals in circuses, including:
Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, India, Iran, Israel, Latvia, Malta, Mexico, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Slovenia, Sweden, Taiwan, and The Netherlands.
Animal Defenders International
With offices in Los Angeles, London and Bogota, ADI is an international campaign and animal rescue organization with a commitment to securing progressive animal protection legislation around the globe. ADI has a worldwide reputation for providing video and photographic evidence exposing the behind-the-scenes suffering in the circus industry and supporting this evidence with scientific research on captive wildlife and transport.