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Under the Big Top
Compromise Issue 16
Circuses and other traveling animal acts
go through a great deal of trouble to bring us such
"entertainment" as tigers jumping through fire, elephants
standing on their heads, and seals playing musical horns.
However, the same circuses are desperate to hide the fact that
the animals perform solely out of fear. In contrast to the
glitter often associated with circuses, the life of most
animals forced to perform is little more than a dismal and
utterly pathetic existence.
The smaller and poorer the circus, the more limited the
animals' access may be to water, food, and veterinary care.
But whatever the size of a circus, the animals inevitably
Tigers and lions usually live and travel in cages which are
a mere 4 feet by 6 feet by 5 feet. Early in their training,
according to Henry Ringling North in his book The Circus
Kings, the big cats are "chained to their pedestals, and ropes
are put around their necks to choke them down. They work from
fear." Bears may have their noses broken while being trained
or have their paws burned to force them to stand on their hind
Because of the enormous size and strength of elephants,
most trainers rely on chains and fear to make them obey. Some
elephants spend almost their whole lives in chains. The
well-known Dumbo lived 20 years in "martingales," chains that
ran from his tusks to his feet. In the wild, the life
expectancy of elephants is the same as ours. In the circus,
many elephants die prematurely of disease and the stress of
Circuses claim to train their animals by "positive
reinforcement." If this were true, we would see trainers
carrying a bag of peanuts, not a whip and a sharpened
Here are some important points to
remember about circuses
when protesting local shows, creating literature, talking to
the media or talking to family or friends:
* If circuses ONLY use positive reinforcement, are they
willing to support legislation to ban the use of sharp hooks,
whips and electric shock on animals? (Ringling has flat out
* The animal rights community would like to monitor the
training of a baby elephant 24 hours a day for the first 5
years of his/her life. If the circus has nothing to hide, why
won't they open their doors?
* Out of the 244 elephants traveling with
circuses and "entertainment" venues, 221 were torn away from
their families and homelands (documentation from industry
source available). These are animals who once knew freedom and
now can only dream about it.
* The circus claims its animals are treated like family.
Yet it tears babies away from their mothers, keeps them in leg
shackles the majority of their lives, confines them for hours
and even days in box cars and travel trailers, and forces them
to perform unnatural and sometimes painful tricks, all for the
circus' financial gain. Hardly how decent people would treat
* There is no way to humanely train and travel with a
12,000 pound exotic animal like an elephant.
* Circus animals live their entire lives in tiny cages with
barely enough room to stand up or lie down.
* Circus animals are forced to perform unnatural tricks
under the constant threat of punishment.
* Circuses have a financial interest in making the public
believe the animals are well cared for. Of course they
wouldn't admit that the animals are beaten and abused. We have
no financial interest to protect; our only interest is the
protection of animals.
* When not in the ring, elephants are chained by two feet
unable to take even one step forward or back. They constantly
sway back and forth to ease their psychological stress and
frustration. (NOTE: before using this sound bite find out if
the circus you are protesting chains their elephants. If
unsure, call PETA).
* We have undercover video that shows how circus animals
are trained. The video shows tigers being dragged by the neck
in chains and beaten with metal pipes and baseball bats.
* Wild animals belong in the wild, not in the circus.
* If children could see behind the scenes of the big top
and how sad the animals' lives are, they would have to be
dragged kicking and screaming to the circus.
For more information about the cruelties of the circus
industry contact your local animal protection group (see
Trenches) and be sure to check out
PETA has a variety of useful supplies available including:
Ele-Friend stickers, coloring books, CANCELLED stickers,
fliers about Elephants in Spanish, Circus Cruelty Checklists,
the video "Cheap Tricks," and Animal Display Ban Packs.