Please Don't Go to the Circus, Bay Area

Circus Lion

As Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus visits the Bay Area in August and September, the San Francisco SPCA asks its supporters to help stop the unquestionable suffering of animals in circuses by refusing to support Ringling Bros. and other traveling animal circuses, and by encouraging others to do the same. 

Last year, the SF SPCA joined 14 other California humane organizations to call for a boycott of Ringling Bros., citing the company’s routine abuse of animals.  Our appeal to the public to seek entertainment venues that don’t use animal performers is again included at the end of this blog.   

Together we can help make the Bay Area, one of the most progressively humane regions in the nation, a community that does not condone the exploitation of wild animals like elephants, big cats and bears in circuses.  These are highly intelligent beings who experience enormous suffering in traveling acts, and no compassionate Californian should want to pay for this type of entertainment.

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California Humane Societies agree: The use of animals as circus performers is an outdated—and inhumane—concept.  Behind the scenes trainers often use whips, bullhooks, electric prods and other painful tools and methods to force animals to perform tricks.  When not performing, animals are kept in small, cramped cages for days at a time with little monitoring.  Exotic animals that have special husbandry needs are often kept in violation.  Elephants that travel with circuses spend hours in transit and in chains.  Circuses train animals through such coercive means as beating, whipping, prodding and shocking.  Elephants are subject to abusive handling methods from devices known as bullhooks that can puncture and tear sensitive skin.

Ringling’s use of bullhooks, prods, and shackles are in violation of Federal Law. Shockingly, laws and regulations offer circus animals minimal protection, and they are rarely enforced. In March 2012, Ringling Brothers settled a USDA action that resulted in a fine of $270,000 for mishandling animals. This is the largest civil imposed penalty ever issued to a circus by USDA.

Circuses with performing animals send the wrong message especially to children, since wild animals are living beings and are not meant to be exploited for entertainment purposes.  Animals do not naturally ride bicycles, walk on their hind legs, balance on balls, or jump through flaming hoops.

There are many wonderful circuses that do not use and/or abuse animals, such as Cirque du Soleil, and they are just as exciting and entertaining, if not more so, than those that do. The public is strongly urged to seek entertainment venues that don’t use animal performers.