Sadly many circuses all over the world continue to use wild animals in their shows. Pretty much every species imaginable, has or is, being exploited in a circus somewhere in the world. While public opinion may slowly be changing with regards to the use of animals in circuses, only 14 countries have placed a total ban on the use of wild animals in circuses. A further four countries have placed a total ban on all animals in circuses. Most of the countries on these lists are South American or European nations and many powerful western nations such as the UK, the USA, Australia and Canada continue to lag behind with regard to this type of legislation.
Wild animals used in circuses are still routinely caught from the wild. Often it is the young animals that are captured, and in the process their parents, or other family members, will likely have been killed.
Wild animals used in circuses are trained using physical abuse and fear. A bear doesn’t choose to be stolen from their mother as a cub in order to be trained for a life of ice skating, walking a tight-rope or riding a bicycle. Neither does a monkey choose to be taken from their family group in order to be tortured and forced to walk on two legs onstage, whilst living in solitary confinement off stage. Circus animals preform because they are starved and seek a food reward, or are frightened of the physical punishment associated with not preforming a task.
In the circus, no matter what the species, they have everything natural stripped from them. They live an existence of fear; they are constantly scared of their trainers and the other animals in their “acts”. They are forced to preform in an environment where stressors, such as loud music, bright lights, screaming crowds and the smell of fast food, must constantly overwhelm and frustrate them. Behind the scenes, when they are not undergoing training sessions, circus animals are confined on chains and/or in crates that grossly restrict their movement and in many cases, prevent the animals from simply turning around.
Many circus animals are subjected to horribly painful and barbaric procedures. Bears will often have their septum pierced with a hot needle through which a rope is passed in order to physically restrain and control them.
Apes frequently have holes drilled through their teeth and their jaws wired together to protect their trainers. Monkeys are routinely trained to walk upright for circus acts. As their anatomy does not naturally allow for this form of locomotion, training them to walk on two legs requires horrific abuse to change their muscle formation and enforce walking on two legs. This is most commonly done by chaining the monkey by the neck and suspending them just far enough off the ground that the have to stretch their back legs to the floor to stop themselves from strangling. The monkey may be subjected to this for weeks on end during the initial training period.
No matter where the circus is or what wildlife is being used one thing is for sure and that is that the animals are suffering immensely.