As you read the sign "animal circus in town", have you ever thought about what the life of a circus animal might be like?
- Forced to live in cramped and totally unsuitable housing
- Hauled from town to town
- Made to perform to a profit driven timetable.
This is their life!
We, along with an ever increasing number of people around Australia and around the world, believe this is wrong.
Zoologist and animal behaviourist Desmond Morris says, "I find circuses deeply offensive. We are just beginning to recognise animals as important in their own right. Circuses throw us back to the Middle Ages.
UPDATE: In 2021, it was confirmed that both Stardust and Lennon Bros, the only two circuses using exotic animals in Australia (such as lions and monkeys) are no longer using exotic animals. This means that there are no exotic animal circuses in Australia!
However, we continue to have concerns for other animals used in circuses such as horses, dogs, goats and other animals, and urge people to avoid all animal circuses.
Why circuses are no place for animals
People are learning to appreciate animals for themselves and are realising that laughing at them being forced to imitate human behaviour or perform acts that make the circus performer look brave is no longer acceptable. With the regular showing of high quality animal documentaries we can see animals "performing" naturally in the wild, which is far more entertaining and educational than any circus act. Animals born into circuses, regardless of the number of generations, are captive-born wild animals that never lose the instincts and needs of wild animals. They retain their natural instincts to socialize and to roam freely. Circuses deny captive-born wild animals' sufficient mental and physical stimulation, and the space and opportunity to exhibit their natural behaviours.
Our Main Concerns
Our main concerns for circus animals are:
- continual transportation
- continual confinement
- insufficient physical and mental stimulation
In Australia, because of the size of the country and the range of climatic conditions travelling can be gruelling for the animals. All extremes of weather can and will be experienced by the animals.
Large animals such as elephants, lions and tigers need a large amount of space to be able to move around and socialise in a natural manner. Monkeys have an incredibly high level of intelligence that can never be fully utilised in their caged life. Lions and tigers are also confined either in their beast wagon or temporarily erected small enclosures. They too are prevented from roaming and socialising naturally. When released from their confinement, it is only to perform acts for the entertainment of the paying crowd.
Lack of Exercise
At the makeshift circus site some animals are taken out of their trailers but they are still tied or hobbled and allowed very restricted movement. In the interests of public safety, large carnivores like lions and tigers must remain caged. Circus sites provide inadequate space for exercise. Training sessions and brief appearances in the ring are not enough.
After the show
The fate of "retired" and surplus circus animals is difficult to trace. Larger circuses may sell unwanted or old animals to smaller enterprises or to private zoos. Primates, especially chimpanzees may end up the victims of laboratory experimentation. Legal protections are inadequate.
In Australia there are no adequate laws to protect animals in circuses or their disposal when they are no longer wanted by their owners. Nevertheless, there have been a number of convictions for cruelty to animals against circus proprietors.
The Queensland Code of Practice for the Welfare of animals in circuses (2003) is unlikely to improve the lot of circus animals very much because the itinerant nature of circuses makes it impossible to provide adequate living conditions for them.
Hope for the future?
Many towns, cities and countries are realising that the keeping of animals, particularly exotic animals, in circuses is totally inappropriate in this modern world. In 1992 the Australian Capital Territory became the first place in the world to make the keeping of animals in circuses a criminal offense. Before and since that time, many municipal councils around Australia (over 40) have enacted bans on circuses using public land. In Queensland, Ipswich City Council enacted a ban in June 2008.
For over 50 years, lions were a major part of circuses in Australia. In 2007, Stardust retired the last performing circus elephant, following an incident resulting in the death of her handler. As of 2021, there are no more circuses in Australia with exotic animals.
What are we doing?
- ALQ educates the public around the issues associated with animal circuses.
- We hold protests outside circuses to educate circus-goers and the public about these issues. While ALQ is opposed to any animals being used in circuses, our focus for protests is on circuses still using exotic animals such as lions, tigers and monkeys.
- We lobby councils and shopping centres with the aim of having them enact bans on animal circuses using their land.
- In the decades that ALQ has been advocating on behalf of circus animals we have seen all elephants, lions, monkeys and other exotic animals retired from Australian circuses.
What can you do?
- Never attend circuses that use animals.
- Circuses need council permits to use public land. Contact your local council to voice your opposition to these permits. Ipswich city council has banned animal circuses from their land.
- If circuses are held at private venues, please contact these venues and ask them to reconsider their decision to allow circuses to use their facilities. Always remember to be polite in all your dealings with councils or private operators. Any abuse or aggressive behaviour will not assist the campaign and can in fact damage it.
- When circuses are in town, write to local papers expressing your disappointment and disgust at the use of animals in circuses.
- If you believe the animals are not being kept according to the law, take photos of the animals, with date, time, place and circus and send them to us.
- Attend protests organised by your local Animal Liberation or other animal advocacy groups.