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Condemn the Circus Cruelty

8th September 2011

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The circus conjures images of a large striped tent bursting with acrobats, clowns and jugglers. Crowds of excited audience members circle the centre stage where the ringmaster introduces an act involving animals. As the animal obediently performs countless tasks, this humorous exterior conceals the shocking abuse and cruelty that the animal suffers daily. After the controversial debate over whether animals should be used in circus acts resurfaced in parliament recently, it raises one defining question: when will the government finally put an end to this suffering?

The RSPCA estimates that there are up to 200 animals being used in British circuses. Thirty-seven of these are wild animals, including zebras, lions, snakes, tigers, camels, crocodiles and a kangaroo as well as domestic animals, such as horses and dogs. The animals are trained to perform activities that range from riding a bike, standing on their heads and balancing on balls to jumping through rings of fire. Whilst the trainers intend these scenes to be funny, the animal’s confused expression makes it clear that the animal had to suffer shocking abuse in order to learn the trick.

Obviously, animals wouldn’t naturally learn how to perform these activities, and so their trainers use a variety of shocking methods to force the animal into learning them. Horrific equipment such as whips, collars, muzzles and even electric prods and bullhooks are used. Undercover filming of these training sessions have further shown one circus using blowtorches. Many of these animals were born into the circus or taken from the wild as babies, meaning that the circus life is the only life they have ever known.

This isn’t the only suffering that the animals are condemned to. As the circuses tour across the country, the animals are confined to small trailers for the journey. These boxes are usually barely big enough for the animal to move around in and can lead to the animal dehydrating or overheating.

This shocking cruelty leads the animals to insanity. When the animal finally breaks down it places the audience and trainers in danger. Over the years, several elephants have finally snapped and killed those around it. If this occurs then the animal has to be shot dead as it cannot calm down. Since 2000, 35 dangerous incidents have been reported with many more occurring behind closed doors.

The animals are protected by the 2006 Animal Welfare Act, which requires the trainers to provide the animals with adequate food, water and housing. However, there is no official ban on animals being tortured and trained into performances that are more disturbing than entertaining.

Circuses that don’t have animal acts are incredibly successful, such as the Cirque du Soleil which is famous worldwide. A recent government survey revealed that 94% of respondents want a ban on the use of animals in circuses. Times have changed, and people no longer go to circuses to see animals.

If you want to show your support then you can donate money to the RSPCA’s ‘The Big Stop’ campaign or place your name on PETA’s online petition. Let’s put a stop to this horrific form of “entertainment” once and for all.

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