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
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
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?