Ringling Brothers Circus is finally closed — an achievement animal welfare groups have been working on for decades. Unfortunately, this is a small step in solving the problem of animal abuse in the circus. Cruelty is rampant, from violent “training” methods to life in chains, and the animals must perform demeaning acts that they would never do in nature. Tigers are forced to jump through rings of fire, and elephants are forced to stand on their heads. While elephants tend to get the most attention, all animals must be protected from the physically and emotionally wretched “life” of the circus.

Here are 13 facts you should know before patronizing any circus that includes animals:

  1. Animals in circuses spend most of their day standing on hard surfaces, resulting in infections and arthritis. The number-one cause of death in elephants is arthritis. Also, they are not able to exercise. In the wild elephants will walk up to forty miles per day.
  2. Circus animal prisoners spend 96% of the time in chains or cages.
  3. Whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bull hooks, and more tools of torture are employed to “train” the animals. An undercover investigator documented that Carson & Barnes circus elephants were beaten with baseball bats, pitchforks, and other objects. They were hit in the head and across the face. Bears have their noses broken and their paws burned to teach them to walk on their hind legs.
  4. Besides punishment, neglect, and deprivation are “training” tools. The animals have no access to food and water until they perform.
  5. The United States Animal Welfare (AWA) has cited every major circus for not attaining the minimum specified of care.
  6. There have been 123 attacks on humans by large cats held captive. Thirteen of them were fatal.
  7. Tigers fear fire and are forced to jump through it. Many have been burned.
  8. The animals are kept squeezed into their boxcars eleven months a year. There are no climate controls. The animals are often sleeping, eating, & defecating in their cage.
  9. Circuses have been have been cited by the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) in the Animal Welfare Act because of horrific transportation trailers with splintering wood and sharp metal pieces jutting out near the animals.
  10. The severe confinement results in deleterious psychological effects. Repeated swaying and pacing are evidence that the animals are suffering emotionally.
  11. Elephant training starts at a very young age. Mothers give birth with three legs tied down. Then all four legs are tied so babies can be immediately stolen without their mothers able to protect them. (In the wild they are weaned for up to five years.) The babies are then tied down and beaten to “condition” them to obey. Elephants are also hit before going on stage at shows to remind them that failure to perform will result in severe punishment.
  12. Some animals are drugged to make them easy to control, or their teeth may be removed so they can’t fight back against their abusers. In one instance, chimpanzees were found with their teeth knocked out by a hammer.
  13. Since 2000 there have been more 35 dangerous incidents in which elephants have escaped from circuses, run through streets, collided into buildings, charged bystanders, and killed and injured handlers.

How to Help Stop Animal Abuse in the Circus

• Do not visit circuses that use animals.
• Write to circus sponsors and tell them to withdraw their support
• Write letters to editors of local newspapers or blogs, educating the public on animal abuse in the circus.
• Support legislation that protects animals in circuses, such as bans on bullhooks (weapons used to train elephants)