Humane Events

Join Our Mailing List

Powered by Robly

Circuses and Road Shows


Circus employee uses a bull hook on an Asian elephant

The circus has been around since ancient times. Meant to entertain, circuses often mean suffering, pain, fear, and degradation for the animals who are forced to perform day after day. By turning animals into spectacles, circuses diminish these magnificent living, breathing, sentient beings and deny them the chance at life in a natural habitat.

The Life of a Circus Animal

  • Animal performers live lives full of abuse, degradation, deprivation, and despair.
  • They work 2-3 times a day for many months in a year.
  • They are housed in conditions that in no way resemble their habitats in the wild.
  • The teeth and claws of performing cats may be removed.
  • Animal performers are not provided with consistent, quality veterinary care as evidenced by citations by the USDA. See one example of a 2010 citation regarding Cole Brothers Circus.
  • When animals can no longer perform, they may be killed, sold, or sent to laboratories.
  • Wild animals kept in captivity often develop neurotic behaviors that include pacing, bar-biting, and self-mutilation.

Abuse while Training

  • The animals are beaten, shocked, and whipped.
  • Bullhooks are often used with elephants. Elephant trainers will imbed the hook in the tender areas of their ears and feet.
  • Whips and chains are used on wild cats.
  • Electric prods may be used to force big cats to jump through flaming hoops.


  • There are no regulations governing the training methods that animals endure under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
  • Serious human injuries and fatalities have occurred in cases where circus animals have escaped confinement.
  • Elephants can transmit M. tuberculosis to humans and other elephants.
  • Monkeys can carry pathogens including tuberculosis, measles, and pox viruses. These viruses can be transmitted to other primates, including humans.

Roadside Shows

  • Roadside shows include donkey basketball, dancing bears, bear wrestling, pigeon bowling, photo ops with tigers and other wild animals, horse diving, and more. These events are sometimes showcased in tourist areas or at county fairs.
  • One of most famous animal shows include “dancing bears” of Pakistan and India. To control these bears, a hole is drilled through the bears’ snouts to which a clamp and a rope are attached. The bears suffer chronic pain from these mutilations, all inflicted without pain medication. The bears are kept in deplorable living conditions and are deprived of their natural lives.

Take Action to Help End Animal Use in Circuses and Roadside Shows

  • Never attend a circus or patronize a roadside show.
  • Educate your friends, family, and coworkers about the cruel nature inherent in forcing animals to perform in circuses and sideshows.
  • Support human circuses, such as Cirque de Soleil, The New Pickle Family Circus, and Circus Oz, and encourage family and friends to attend.
  • Write officials expressing your opposition if your community condones animal-based circuses.
  • Support legislation to ban and restrict circuses and roadside shows.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email