Lifting The Curtain On The Big Top
A snapshot of the problem of wild animals in circuses around the world
As part of international wildlife charity Born Free’s latest campaign, ‘Goodbye to the Circus’, it hopes to highlight the plight of wild animals in circuses around the world.
Concern for animals in circuses is not new: laws regulating the use of performing animals have been in place in Great Britain since 1925; and around the world, around 30 countries have now banned the use of wild animals in travelling circuses. Singapore and Costa Rica banned wild animals from circuses in 2002, and Austria became the first country in Europe to implement a ban in 2005. In the years since, similar laws have been brought in in countries such as Greece, Cyprus, Ireland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Estonia, and Malta, Scotland, and England.
Yet in many parts of the world, this outdated show still goes on, and there are still some European countries that have no national legislation preventing the use of wild animals in circuses, including France and Germany. In France alone it is estimated that there could be more than 500 wild animals in use in somewhere between 60-160 including lions, tigers, elephants, hippos, baboons, macaques, snakes, parrots, camels, bears, ostriches, and zebra.
Circus life is notorious for being incompatible with basic standards of animal welfare: there is overwhelming evidence of compromised animal welfare in circuses. The complex needs of wild animals simply cannot be met under such conditions, and many suffer cruelty to train them to perform for people’s entertainment.
But it is not only the poor conditions and treatment of animals which hit the headlines. There have been numerous reports of wild animals escaping from circuses, some ending tragically. Examples of these include:
Germany – Two zebras escaped from circus. One was recaptured and the other was shot dead after it ran onto a motorway, causing an accident
France – An escaped tiger was shot dead in Paris after the circus owner failed to recapture it
Russia – Two elephants roamed the snowy streets after their handlers failed to get them back into their truck
Germany – An escaped elephant wandered around the town of Neuwied for several hours before circus workers arrived to recapture her
Italy – A giraffe escaped in town of Imola and, after injuring several vehicles as it ran down the road, it was shot with a tranquiliser, but died of a heart attack
France – Escaped zebra and horses filmed running down Paris streets were later recaptured
Poland – Escaped tiger shot with tranquiliser dart but attacked the veterinarian. Police opened fire and shot dead the tiger, but also accidentally shot dead the vet.
Born Free has rescued 21 animals from circuses and has rehomed them to retire at sanctuaries across the world, including at its big cat sanctuary Shamwari in South Africa.
Dr Chris Draper, Born Free’s Head of Animal Welfare & Captivity, commented: “It is baffling to consider that leading countries within the EU still permit the exploitation of wild animals within travelling circuses. The cruelty must stop here, and we are urging the governments of every nation with a circus industry to take legislative action to end the use of wild animals in circuses”.
To support the campaign visit https://www.bornfree.org.uk/goodbye-circus#donate-today.
For more information visit www.bornfree.org.uk