(Image from Freedom for Animals)

Circus animals suffer and are exploited in the name of entertainment. They are forced to perform unnatural tricks. Animals do not perform these tricks through choice – they perform them from fear, being made to endure cruel training methods, including the use of whips and sticks to break their spirit and frighten them into obedience. Not surprisingly, other incidents of violence towards the animals have been exposed many times. Animals used in circuses are transported around the country on the backs of lorries and kept in cramped, temporary accommodation. Elephants who would roam for miles in the wild spend their nights chained by their legs. Those animals unfortunate enough to be conscripted into being entertainers lead lives of misery and indignity, deprived of anything that might satisfy their complex physical, behavioural, and emotional needs. Their lives constitute abuse as entertainment which is both outdated and demeaning.

Bolivia was the first country in the world to ban animals in circuses, followed by China and Greece. The Republic of Ireland banned wild animal circuses in January 2018, with similar legislation coming into effect in Scotland shortly after. Legislation came into effect in England in 2020 which expressly forbids circus operators from using wild animals in travelling circuses and Wales finally enacted legislation to make it a criminal offence to use wild animals in a travelling circus in December 2020. Northern Ireland however is falling behind the rest of the British Isles. Freedom For Animals is asking people to contact the Northern Ireland Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and ask him to support a ban on animals in circuses, and bring Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the British Isles.

While the use of wild animals in circuses is slowly being banned across the UK and Ireland, the use of domestic animals in circuses is still permitted across the British Isles, as all of these bans have excluded domestic animals like horses, goats, dogs and others. Yet we know that these animals suffer too. They have to endure long hours on the road in cramped conditions; can suffer health problems from being trained to perform unnatural tricks over and over and can be stressed by the training, the ‘performance’ in the ring, the bright lights, the loud noises and the crowds. It is unethical to use animals in this way, as props for entertainment, and along with other organisations we will continue to push for a ban on the use of ALL animals in circuses.