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How does everyone feel about the circus?

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
Hi
On another forum which I am involved and am a mod, there is a heady discussion going on about the treatment of animals at the circus
(tigers, lions, elephants, etc).
I have never taken my daughter to the circus as I feel its inhumane to devalue a wild animal like that (teaching them mortifying tricks and lugging them around in trailers from coast to coast).

I remember seeing a video once whereby they teach elephants how to do tricks with electric prods while one foot is chained down.
Though I am unsure if this was simply propaganda or based in fact, I am not comfortable with the notion of a performing wild animal at all.

One person's argument is that I have participated in flyball, or agility etc with dogs and that I keep cats caged in the house and were they not once wild animals? And how do we know that circus animals don't like being fed three times a day and taught tricks???

Does anyone have any opinions or hard evidence I can offer to debate this?
I can go based on my own emotion and how it extends to the obvious: Ie, thinking that a natural environment is better, but this just sounds like personal opinion..

ANyone feel the same?
post #2 of 24
The dog/cat analogy is flawed.

Cats and dogs are not only domestic, but man made species.
They were never wild animals, but rather created from wild animals.

I do believe that circuses are much like any other animal entertainment business, you have both good and bad, and unfortunately, the bad are generally the majority and most often focused upon.
post #3 of 24
Thread Starter 
It was simple evolution though that domesticated animals?
Ie, wild dogs would benefit and survive if they hung around humans and cats are the same?

We didn't go into the wild essentially and force the dogs or cats to adapt to us but rather it was a natural relationship that evolved?
post #4 of 24
True, to an extent, but after thousands of years of evolution as our companions, and selective breeding in ancient cultures, our pets are nothing at all like their wild ancestors.

It still leaves the flyball analogy flawed as I said.
It takes a very long time and a lot of selective breeding to domesticate an animal.
Even as far as pet birds go, only the canary, and the budgie (parakeet) can lay any claim to being anywhere near domestic.

Even if captive bred and captive born, Circus animals are still wild animals, not domestic.
post #5 of 24
It depends on what you're comparing with. Obviously their own environment would be the best, however compared to a zoo for instance, apparently a well-run circus is a better alternative. I've been reading (off and on) a book called The Tribe of Tiger: Cats and Their Culture by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas. I found it quite interesting and thought provoking, particularly some of the observations she has made re: circus vs. zoo cats.

I highly recommend it.
post #6 of 24
I think that ones with dangerous or wild animals (tigers, elephants etc.) even if they were 'brought up in captivity' are not good, but ones that only use horses/domesticated animals that are specialy and kindly trained are ok-ish, even though I doubt I'd go see one.

The reason being, even if the tiger was brought up in captivity, it still has a wild animals instincts and nothing will change that. Dogs, cats, horses have been domesticated for hundreds of years. They are still wild at heart, but... I dunno. It's different somehow.
post #7 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by RoseHawke
It depends on what you're comparing with. Obviously their own environment would be the best, however compared to a zoo for instance, apparently a well-run circus is a better alternative. I've been reading (off and on) a book called The Tribe of Tiger: Cats and Their Culture by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas. I found it quite interesting and thought provoking, particularly some of the observations she has made re: circus vs. zoo cats.

I highly recommend it.
Thanks for the recommend.
I loved "The Hidden Life of Dogs" by her as well.
I will see if I can secure a copy.
post #8 of 24
I think that unless someone here actually works in a circus or personally knows someone who does, it would be impossible to come to a conclusion of whether or not circuses are humane. As someone else touched on, every circus is different- I have seen video footage of bears being trained to stand by having the pads of their feet burned, but I have also (in person) seen tiger trainers cuddling with their big cats, and elephant handlers watching and comforting while the vet treats one of their charges. So I suppose it really varies from circus to circus, and even handler to handler.

Just a question though, what is your definition of a "wild animal?" The most common circus animals I have seen are elephants and tigers, both of which have relatives living in the wild, but who also seem quite content in captivity. In several countries, elephants are used just as often as horses and camels when it comes to being a beast of burden, and like horses, the elephants show affection to their handlers and even "purr" when they are happy!

I also know of 3 people (personally, and I'm sure there are more) who have big cats as pets in British Columbia. 2 of them are Bengal tigers, the other is an injured mountain lion. I also know of (but don't personally relate to) a few people with smaller "wild" animals, I.E. bobcats, servals, ocelots, etc. all of which are bascially considered to be "wild" animals but are doing quite well in captivity. And 2 of the tigers do tricks, for food, and I really don't think they care about being "humiliated" because I'm failry certain they don't find the tricks morally degrading...just a means to get more food!

But I also don't know what kind of tricks you may be referring to, I've never really seen any that would classify as "humiliating" to me. Do you mean humiliating to the species in general, or to the individual animal?

Personally, I believe an animal is an animal, wild, domesticated, or otherwise. A so-called "domestic" stallion is every bit as likely to injure a person as a wild zebra stud, although the horse will probably behave better since the odds are that he has been handled since he was a foal, and knows the consequences of acting up. If it was a zebra stallion who had been rasied by hand, and a horse stallion that had no human contact, I would put my money in the better behaviour department on the zebra.

Also, animals adapt, and I'm sure many of you have cats and dogs and horses who like to show off and have an audience...why wouldn't "wild" animals be any different? If they were born and raised in captivity, thye won't know any different, and will most likely grow up trying to please the ones that feed them...the humans!

I think that all animals should be allowed to live the way they were designed, but that doesn't stop me from keeping my 2 cats indoors (because I fear they shall have an unhappy encounter with the busy road) and it doesn't stop me from riding my horses. But I don't yell at my cats for fighting with eachother, and I will never keep my horses in a stall all day or in a tiny paddock. Basically what I'm getting at is that as long as they are allowed the opportunity to behave and play like wild animals for the majority of the day, then using animals, wild or otherwise, in a circus (if they are treated and trained humanely) is ok.

But sadly, it is very hard to tell which circuses actually do treat their animals kindly unless you have the time or connections to get up close and personal and investigate.
post #9 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Arlyn
The dog/cat analogy is flawed.

Cats and dogs are not only domestic, but man made species.
They were never wild animals, but rather created from wild animals.

I do believe that circuses are much like any other animal entertainment business, you have both good and bad, and unfortunately, the bad are generally the majority and most often focused upon.
Well said!



Personal experience, not with a circus, but with a few different orgs that have/use animals in education.

The good orgs [most of them] do not use force to train an animal, rather they develop a close bond with the animals, and they use positive reinforcement to train them. Different animals handle situations differently, and excell at some "tricks" while they fail at others.

Think of teaching a child, you can use force to make them do stuff, but in the long run all you are accomplishing is harm, eventually they will grow up, and having only been taught force, will use it against you at any opportunity. Training animals by force only accomplishes such. However, if you can deveolp a close relationship, where you can communicate on their level with them, and teach them good habits and practices. When you can recognize what tasks the child enjoys and excells at, and encourage that behavior in a positive fashion, instead of being a force to be reckoned with, you become a source of inspiration and trust. While the communication is different, and the tasks generally simpler [what's more complicated than human nature? ] the training method works extremely well with animals. You can use it on cats, on dogs, on tigers, on elephants, on pretty much any form of intelligent life.

There are established standards that all commercial animal exhibits are required to meet, these standards have been around for decades, humane treatment of any animal is what the standard is all about. While just having a standard doesn't mean it will be followed, the vast majority of the animal industry greatly exceed these standards. Because it is so hard to force train an animal and still meet these standards [Force training is considered by most to be abuse], instances of the standards being violated are extremely rare.

There are groups out there that really devote all of their efforts to collecting only negative information, and then presenting such information in such a fashion that it appears to be all that ever happens. This representation couldn't be farther from the truth.

The circus industry as a whole does a very good job of treating animals in the most humane manner possible, there will always be mistakes and mishaps, but these are not common. So, as a whole, I think circuses are good things. [Even if I think the clowns are a bit....wierd...]

Spotz
post #10 of 24
I don't like them, but that's really just a personal thing. I would rather the circus focus on human performers and leave the animals out.
post #11 of 24
I like the Circuses that don't have animals!
post #12 of 24
We have one of those "Human" Circuses in town...

From what I've seen those people do...some of them can't be Human...LOL

People circuses are actually really great too.

Spotz
post #13 of 24
never been to an animal circus... i am not sure about those though, i wonder about how the animals are really treated and it scares me...

but i do love cirque du soleil!!! its amazing!
post #14 of 24
I have never been to a circus, I think I'd find it a bit alarming (as Spotz says, some of the performers are incredible) but I have watched on television. It's interesting that a lot of our local councils will not allow circuses to perform in their towns, if they have 'wild' animals in the show.

I remember a few years ago, a lady from one of our most well-known circus families was prosecuted for abusing a chimp which she was 'training' for the circus. That came as a big shock to me as I had watched this circus on TV many times, and thought it was respectable. So you never know.....

Sue
post #15 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by RoseHawke
It depends on what you're comparing with. Obviously their own environment would be the best, however compared to a zoo for instance, apparently a well-run circus is a better alternative. I've been reading (off and on) a book called The Tribe of Tiger: Cats and Their Culture by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas. I found it quite interesting and thought provoking, particularly some of the observations she has made re: circus vs. zoo cats.

I highly recommend it.
The book is interesting, especially the part about the circus cats. I always think of that book when the subject of circus animals comes up.
post #16 of 24
Thanks for the reminder of that book. I found it quite fascinating, and it's probably time I had another look at it.
post #17 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by rapunzel47
Thanks for the reminder of that book. I found it quite fascinating, and it's probably time I had another look at it.
I just picked up my copy this weekend and am about 30 pages in so far and really liking it..
I will post an opinion once its formed.

Cheers
post #18 of 24
I think that circuses and zoos are cruel for one main reason: confinement.

You can treat a wild animal (in a circus or a zoo) with all of the love and compassion in the world, but if you expect this animal (who was designed to roam over hundreds of acres for stimulation, food, and exercise) to be happy living in a space not much bigger than the average backyard I don't think that is fair to the animal. That would be like confining a human to house arrest forever. Never to travel, walk for miles, "hunt" for mind/body stimulation, etc. I would go mad.
post #19 of 24
You can treat a wild animal (in a circus or a zoo) with all of the love and compassion in the world, but if you expect this animal (who was designed to roam over hundreds of acres for stimulation, food, and exercise) to be happy living in a space not much bigger than the average backyard I don't think that is fair to the animal

Totally agree plus some!! Animals are not on this earth for our entertainment, nor to be exploited, experimented on, worn, or in my very vegetarian (22 yrs.) opinion, eaten!!

To see animals like elephants parade around wearing silly hats & costumes is disgusting! They are kind, gentle and very social animals. They belong in the wild. Those poor caged felines who will never get to lay in the tall grass of their homelands or hunt as their instinct dictates is also disgusting.

What is the real difference between a circus or a rodeo where they burn/brand calves and violently rope cattle for the "sport" and/or entertainment? Which leads me to go further in my extreme opinion (which I am aware of)...what is the difference between a circus, rodeo or a hunt? None. It is all for entertainment, sport and/or the o'mighty dollar bill!!

You would definitely find me on the boycott line of a circus not the admission line.
post #20 of 24
So instead we should leave animals out of captivity, to instead be forced into extinction in their natural habitat, before we should ever "exploit" them?

That's a very large jump, and a sad one IMO.

The confinement issue...comparing to their wild existance...most animals THRIVE in captivity. Living longer [sometimes more than double] and healthier lives...and with proper interaction [read: enrichment], Happier lives too.

You can convince me that captivity _CAN_ be bad, but not that captivity is inherently bad. Captivity is something that can be used for much more good than harm.

Hunting...that's a touchy subject....I don't agree with hunting for sport, or trophies/stories, alone. However, hunting also has a functional purpose. The most appropriate one...population control. Yes, the populations are out of whack for a variety of reasons, most man made, but hunting is one of the few truely viable methods currently available.

Rodeos...can't quite say I understand them, and as such I tend to avoid them.

I have better things to do with life than stand on a boycott line. Me not going, is good enough for me. I'd rather be out there helping other animals that are in a higher state of need than most animals in a circus [who are widely treated quite humanely if I may add]. I would say your time would be better spent doing the same. Why waste time making a nusiance of yourself, when you could instead be volunteering at an animal shelter and truely saving an animals life?

Oh, and one last thought.

If all of these orgs merely exist for the sake of entertainment...tell me, why do pets exist at all? We don't breed them, we confine them to unnatural environments, we dress them up or have them groomed into silly little haircuts. These animals all came from the wild, thus by your very opinion, you should be totally against the whole concept of pets. The mere word should absolutely offend you. Again, Why do we have pets?

Spotz
post #21 of 24
If all of these orgs merely exist for the sake of entertainment...tell me, why do pets exist at all?

Pets exist because of love & kindness...or am I being naive? Hopefully, humans being the most intelligent (have to question that sometimes) have the responsibility to treat all animals with love & kindness.

We don't breed them, we confine them to unnatural environments, we dress them up or have them groomed into silly little haircuts.

Pets are not confined to unnatrual enviornments...simply my opinion. Birds, reptiles and tropical fish are a few that I can't say that for. We have domesticated cats and dogs...they don't belong roaming the streets to fend for themselves. I certainly don't agree in dressing them or having them groomed into silly haircuts. If you have to walk your dog in 10 degree weather, a sweater/coat would be appropriate...if you have a feline that is more comfortable with shorter hair and it the cut is for the well being of the animal...well, in my opinion again, you have the responsibility to have it groomed properly.

These animals all came from the wild, thus by your very opinion, you should be totally against the whole concept of pets. The mere word should absolutely offend you. Again, Why do we have pets?

Yes, the animals came from the wild but certain animals have become domesticated either by our hand or by nature itself. I can't see an animal such as a maltese running through the streets of lets say New York trying to fend for itself. The word "Pet" means responsibility, love & kindness to me.

Pets are not for entertainment...they are sharing our lives, hopefully filled with good health & happiness.
post #22 of 24
Quote:
The confinement issue...comparing to their wild existance...most animals THRIVE in captivity. Living longer [sometimes more than double] and healthier lives...and with proper interaction [read: enrichment], Happier lives too.

Most animals live longer and healthier lives as far as less disease, starvation and the like, but psychologically they suffer big time. Every zoo I have been to, all of the large mammals exhibit neurosis such as constant pacing with vacant stares, lethargy, depression, etc. Man can care for their physical needs while neglecting the free spirit of the animal.

I agree with "enrichment" but that only goes so far. Eventually the "enrichment" rituals become routine and then gets boring for the animals too.

If capitivity makes things better for wild animals then how do you explain the hundreds of thousands of "pet" (not really because birds are not truly "domesticated") birds end up in sanctuaries with screaming disorders, feather plucking and sometimes exteme body mutilation??

Most people cannot provide their wild "pet" birds with the things that nature provides: Many birds in one flock, PLENTY of freedom, an extremely varied diet and so on. (parakeets, canaries, lovebirds, and cockatiels handle captivity well because they have been bred for centuries as companion pets).

If I were an large mammal and someone asked me if I would prefer to be locked up the rest of my life in a small space while being "taken care of" or be allowed to live as I was created to live and live a shorter life, I would take the shorter life.

That said, many zoo animals do do well in captivity. The prey animals for example. They don't have to constantly look over their shoulder wondering if they will get chased down for a meal. Other animals cope better. I still think the bears, big cats, elephants, wolves, and so on don't belong cooped up.


Education can happen through Videos, T.V shows, books, magazines, etc. We should be working harder to prevent extinction at the source, their habitat, our earth. Confinement to prevent extinction is a sorry substitute.
post #23 of 24
Hunting...that's a touchy subject....I don't agree with hunting for sport, or trophies/stories, alone. However, hunting also has a functional purpose. The most appropriate one...population control.

That statement indicates that you are in favor of kill shelters and don't agree that TNR is an effective means to the over population of felines. Hmmm...hunting is appropriate when population control is needed? So, I guess we should all lock & load and solve that feline/feral over population problem, huh?

[B]I have better things to do with life than stand on a boycott line. Me not going, is good enough for me.

I feel the need to be a voice for those who do not have one. When good people do nothing, evil triumphs!

I'd rather be out there helping other animals that are in a higher state of need than most animals in a circus [who are widely treated quite humanely if I may add].

Widely treated humanely? Hmmm...animals such as elephants, lions, tigers, bears, etc. being shuffled in trucks and/or trains from city to city doesn't sound very humane to me. Have you seen video footage of how these animals are "trained" to jump through hoops of fire for example? That's real natural for a lion to do.

I would say your time would be better spent doing the same. Why waste time making a nusiance of yourself, when you could instead be volunteering at an animal shelter and truely saving an animals life?[/b]

I feel my time is spent very wisely...thank-you. I am very active with my local Humane Society, I foster kittens and volunteer to foster those that are on "death row" at kill shelters, I shelter & feed a colony of ferals in my backyard, I take love & cherish my 4 felines inside and in addtion have a 12-yr. old son that has been taught to respect nature...all of it...from a snail on the ground to a stray cat on the street.

As far as being a nusiance...well, I don't push my beliefs of not eating meat, not attending a circus or not wearing fur on anyone including my family. They happen to be meat eaters. If I saw a woman wearing a fur coat, I certainly would not go out of my way to make a loud comment (maybe a quiet one though )

Look, I sleep at night knowing everyday I don't mistreat or kill God's creatures in any way shape or form. That's my comfort zone. Everyone has the right to their own comfort zone.
post #24 of 24
The circus use to come to our town once a summer. They use to set up in the elementry school grounds. It was really cool to see the animals up close. The clowns scared me more then the tigers.... haha. It was a fun way to spend the afternoon.

Just with any group a few bad apples can ruin it for everyone. I'm sure that the vast majority of circus trainers treat thier animals with the up most care and respect. Those who don't tend to get the all the attention, giving the entire group a bad name.
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