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INTRODUCTION

Animals in the circus don't have anything in common with their mates living in the wild:
Totally denaturalised, violently subdued to the privation of their biological and ethological needs, reduced to machines and made ridiculous for our entertainment, the only thing they know is sadness and terror.

Lions and elephants living in the wild have complex social relationships, obviously annihilated in the circus. On the other hand, tigers are solitary animals: in the circus they are forced to live in a few square meters - while in the wild their territory can be larger than hundreds of square kilometres - and sometimes put together with a group of other felines.

The tamer bends the animal's will through violence and privations: either the animal obeys or it dies. Even during the shows it's not hard to see that the animals are terrified: lions often crawl on their belly, with their ears flatted back groaning quietly.

The conditions in which the animals are kept are shameful: the cages are too small (sometimes the animal cannot even stand), hygiene is scarce or missing, there's not enough light and the journeys are frequent and too long.

Animals are mortified and get conditioned, and tied to a strict routine. Every day they have to make the same movements in very small spaces.
Elephants are usually immobilised by two short metallic chains tying their legs.
Imprisoned in their closets with their own faeces, they spend the day obsessively shaking their heads, the only possible movement. This behaviour persists even if they are released.

A recent dossier published by the British animalistic association Animal Defenders, demonstrates that Chipperfield's circus's lions spent up to 97% of the time in rooms of 1,9 x 2,4 meters. (the circus was condemned of animal abuse). Everything is strictly and monotonously ruled. The animals don't have any other choice but sleeping or turning nervously around their tiny cages. Barcelona's circus, that also works as zoo like many other circuses, used to keep a kangaroo in a dark cage that was so small that the animal couldn't even stand upright.

Animals suffer from the frustration of their natural instincts and from the stress provoked by captivity. Their reaction to this distress makes them develop nervous problems that can sometimes lead to aggressive behaviours. Additional stress to these out of the brink conditions is added by the long and tiresome trips, under the sun, the rain or the snow. Medrano circus for example travels approximately 10.000 km every year.

The most common animals to see in the circus are tigers, lions, elephants and horses. Recently also white tigers, rhinos and hippopotamus are beginning to appear. But you can also find dromedaries, zebras, kangaroos, reptiles, parrots, gorillas, chimps, buffaloes, ants, seals and even sharks and penguins!

Importing chimps and exotic animals is now forbidden by the Washington Convention, but the illegal traffic is a flourishing business. Chimps are caught in the wild after all other members of the group trying to protect them are killed.

Even in case that the illegal imported animals are recognised as such, and therefore taken by the CITES of the state forestry department, they end up in zoos or in recovering centres if they are lucky, spending the rest of their lives in an artificial environment far from their wilderness. In Italy the circuses are exempt from the law that forbids keeping "dangerous "fauna, like tigers and lions.

The circus is funded with public money: if the government wouldn't help it with financial resources most of the circuses would be bankrupted because of their scarce incomes. In Italy the ministry of education promoted the circus inviting schools to take the students to the shows because the circus would be "a live show, entertaining and educational moment". According to the ministry the circus also provides "a deeper knowledge of the animals, also from the point of view of their needs and life habits".

How can be educational and entertaining the sight of a suffering and sad animal in a cage, forced to behave so unnaturally?


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