Is the Animal Circus Cruel?

In October, we went as a family to the circus. I always loved the circus as a child and I was delighted to see it was every bit as magical as I remembered it.

When the lights came on and the elephant parade made its entrance, my toddler was rapt, I nearly cried with joy, and my newborn–well, he fell asleep…but everyone else was really, really excited.

As we were leaving, however, I noticed a protest of the use of animals in the show.

When I got home, I did some research, and all the available information seems so biased, I just can’t make up my mind! I’d love to make the circus a family tradition, but I also don’t want to support animal cruelty.

I am an animal lover, and I also happen to be a vegetarian (though I have no issue with others eating meat), but I do not think that captivity is prima facie cruelty. So, if anyone has some relatively objective and recent information about the lives of these animals in the major circuses (good or bad), I would really love to hear more.

Be Sociable, Share!


  1. I think Ringling Brothers has a very long tradition of trying to do right by the animals that are featured in its show. A great book to read is The Life and Times of Mabel Stark- it’s the biography of the tiger trainer and really talks about the treatment of the animals–plus it’s a really fun read.

  2. Audrey says:

    I also went to the circus as a child and have decided not to take my kids. I think it comes down to this, should wild animals be trained for our entertainment? Should they be trained and disciplined to perform night after night and be shuttled around the country in cages? I do not know the “dirt” on Ringling brothers, (I’m sure you could go on the Peta website) but I remember in elementary school they had a “unicorn” which was a goat with one horn. It was ridiculous. I’d rather show my children animals in zoos where they have programs to keep endangered species alive.