Stop Circus Suffering

The science on suffering: Training, rehearsals & performance, abuse

It is important that the Animal Welfare Bill specifically outlaw violence during training, and the ‘cruelty offence’ and ‘duty of care’ as they stand, will not be able to prevent violence in training if different standards of welfare are produced for performing animals.

9. Training, rehearsals & performance, abuse

  • It is important that the Animal Welfare Bill specifically outlaw violence during training, and the ‘cruelty offence’ and ‘duty of care’ as they stand, will not be able to prevent violence in training if different standards of welfare are produced for performing animals.

Currently the law allows violence in training or moving an animal, provided the violence stops once the animal has complied. This has left circus animals extremely vulnerable to abuse including beatings with poles (reference: Aldershot Magistrates’ Court, 1999, Chipperfield trial).

  • ADI’s studies of training practices have shown that the rehearsals that a frequently seen on the road, when a circus is travelling, are entirely different from actual training.
  • The real training of an animal for a performance goes on in the ‘winter quarters’ or permanent training centre – behind closed doors and away from public view.
  • Once an animal has been ‘broken’ it will probably spend the rest of its life plodding through variants of the same routine …right down to the stage-managed moments when they appear to refuse to obey, or for the large cats, the ‘pretend attack’ on the presenter. It will perform this routine with whichever presenter has hired or purchased it for the season.
  • Intimidation and abuse ranges from relatively mild daily subjugation – screaming, whipping, a kick, a punch – to a full-blown beating with iron bars, broom handles, pitchforks, buckets or whatever is to hand.
  • Poorly paid (circa £10 a day), untrained workers are under pressure to move the animals fast, and do not understand the species they are dealing with, thus leading to violence.
  • ADI has filmed how a full-grown lioness can be made to urinate with fear, when screamed at.
  • The bars of cage tunnels and cages are banged with iron bars, and animals shouted and screamed at to get them to move quickly.
  • When the animals come running into the ring, appearing to be full of enthusiasm, it is because someone is standing behind the curtain with an iron bar in their hand
  • Examples ADI has on videotape include:

– lions and tigers shouted at, poked, prodded, stones thrown at them and struck with metal bars to keep them moving
– sharp-pointed elephant hooks to move elephants –a sharp point can also be concealed at the end of a walking stick
– a hippo, apparently in distress, hit and jabbed about the flanks and neck with a bar
– a tigress being beaten with a tent pole
– a lioness being rammed in the mouth with a tent pole
– elephants being clubbed, whipped, attacked with various weapons
– camels, llamas and other animals being beaten, kicked and punched
– ponies being repeatedly whipped during training

Click here for a PDF of the report

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