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Boycotting Circuses Overview Research Paper

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Updated: Jun 23rd, 2022


Elephants, leopards, bears, monkeys, and many other animals are nowadays being trained and compelled to ride bicycles, jump through circles of fire, remain, and play in cages for a long time. They do not engage in such activities voluntarily but do so out of torture and beating behind the curtains. Critics of circuses affirm that animals are not there for positive reinforcement but for great extents of torment and punishment. Trainers use painful weapons such as whips, electrical shock, and muzzles to coerce the animals to undertake such pointless and physically involving practices (Doss 142). However, the supporters argue that animals in circuses are not subjected to any form of stress during training, demonstrations, and transportation. They assert that like dogs or cats enjoying playing with people, lions and other wild animals enjoy circuses. Although animal circuses have some benefits, they should be banned because their drawbacks outshine their advantages.

In Favor of Boycotting Circuses

Circuses practice their habits of animal abuse since government agencies do not carefully supervise their training sessions. Hidden camera footage of such training programs has disclosed that animals such as elephants are whipped and shocked with electric current. Lions and leopards are pulled with heavy chains around the neck, as monkeys are beaten with long poles. These helpless and ignored creatures have suffered for many years in the hands of cruel individuals (Krepitch 23). Apart from the harsh training, there have been several instances where trained animals have been made to fight each other, with some dying in arenas while entertaining people and acting as sources of income. Circuses have turned into places where animal cruelty is freely practiced as they are divested of their dignity and treated cold-heartedly. As human beings enjoy circuses, animals are subjected to suffering or made to undertake death-defying practices.

Animals in circuses go through human-inflicted torture behind the scenes and before they are brought to the show. Apart from whipping, the animals are mistreated in manners such as lengthy confinement in cages. The animals are made to spend their lives in small and uncomfortable cells, which is against their natural way of existence in the open natural environment. Throughout the period of training and shows, such animals are made to live in constant distress and intimidation. The insufficient living environment within the cages results in physical pressure, psychological stress, and poor health conditions for the animals. Additionally, among other tools, a bullhook is used to inflict pain and punish the animals during training (Loeb 8). Lions and leopards are not naturally meant to leap through circles of fire, while monkeys and apes are not born to stand on each other’s backs. It is beyond barbarism to have the innocent animals compelled to do such ‘tricks’ and, at the same time, subject them to needless pain.

Constant transportation signifies that animals in circuses are confined to cages or boxcars in cold and hot weather. Sometimes they are made to stay for unreasonably long periods without food, water, or medical care. The animals are confined in the filthy and small cages in which they are made to eat, sleep, drink, excrete, and urinate. On average, animals are caged or chained for over 26 hours and other times more than 100 hours (Waters 587). Moreover, the cages are so small that they offer barely insufficient space for the animal to turn. There have been instances of some animals dying in poorly ventilated containers while being transported to circuses. Such deaths may be attributed to heatstroke, discomfort, or dehydration.

Upset and unable to cope with any more period of torture, some animals such as elephants have, on several occasions, posed a public danger. The moment the animals rebel against the trainers’ physical supremacy, they can sometimes not protect themselves or the public at circuses. On such occasions, the animals may end up injuring or killing the trainers or spectators before being cornered or gunned down. In more than 40 dangerous occurrences from 2001, elephants have been charged from circuses, ran berserk on the streets, stormed into houses, attacked people, and sometimes injured or killed their handlers and spectators (Mormede et al. 151). It should be discovered by now that the moment a dangerous animal such as elephant bolts out of a circus, it is not easy to control it, and it could cause deaths and destruction of property. Such an event may only be calmed by security personnel gunning down the animal.

Circuses have resulted in the denial of freedom for animals, which sometimes leads to their death in captivity. In the recent past, animal rights activists have protested circuses such as dolphin confinement at Ocean Park. They affirm that people should boycott circuses because it is not natural, right, or educational for animals such as dolphins and elephants to carry out tricks for food after they have been tortured (Hadley 996). Whether bred in captivity or the wild and captured, keeping animals in tanks and subjecting them to unnecessary pain is inhumane.

Animal circuses create health risks that need to be considered and perhaps add enough weight as to why they should be stopped or boycotted. For example, circus elephants carry tuberculosis and may easily transmit it to human beings. Tuberculosis is highly contagious and dangerous in people who contract it. This signifies that entertainment in circuses may breed later deaths or hospitalization and ensuing medical costs (Waters 588). Even as people are encouraged to boycott circuses, governments around the world should prohibit the use of animals in such settings and ensure that law enforcement officers deal with any person who practices the vice.

Animal activists have visited animal training centers and established that bear cubs, dogs, monkeys, pigs, leopards, and lambs are chained to walls and coerced to stay upright for long durations as a way of training them to walk on hind limbs and entertain spectators. Failure to maintain a proper upright position, the animals risk choking on the chains or hanging to death. After training, they are aged and taken to entertain people in circuses for hours. This divests the animals of their freedom to carry out everyday activities on their own. Such concerns should be highly documented in media to enlighten a high number of people about the problems that animals experience in the process of their handlers and trainers making money (Hadley 998). Each animal circus attracts more than 3 million guests per year. Many of these guests may not be aware of what the animals go through before being brought to the shows. Enhanced awareness in media platforms will become an eye-opener and encourage people to boycott circuses.

Attributable to rising concerns of circus animals being mistreated or causing danger to the public, there is an increased urge to either ban or restrict such practices. Some of the animals in captivity bite on the metal rods or concrete in protest, which worsens their degree of distress, boredom, pain, and anxiety. Sometimes the animals end up breaking their teeth, thus resulting in painful dental boring with no anesthesia (Doss 142). Stopping the use of animals in circuses will relieve them of such problems and ensure that they exist freely in their natural habitat.

When animal circuses are organized, activists should boycott them and hold demonstrations to enlighten the public that the tricks carried out by animals during the shows emanate from periods of bullhook beatings, electrical shocks, and other cruel approaches used as training methods. Increased activism will make progressively more people boycott circuses, while portrayal in the media might influence the government to outlaw the use of animals in such ways (Krepitch 23). This will make entertainers look for other ways of holding the shows without animals. This could be a good way of encouraging people with different talents to showcase themselves on such platforms and entertain people as they benefit from the publicity and earning from that place. Animal-free circuses will create innovative ways of making money without mistreating animals or endangering people’s lives.

The elimination of animals from circuses may reduce the number of people attending such events and incorporate a high number of talented performers. An advantage of such an approach is that it would increase job opportunities for the people in society. This is because people with different abilities would use them to entertain and enlighten others at a fee. Additionally, this will have the benefit of preventing the abuse of animals by trainers (Loeb 6). Such animals may either be freed to survive in the wild or kept in protective sanctuaries. Rights organizations will not just advocate Animal-free circuses; other agencies would also seek to sponsor such endeavors, which would boost the businesses and economic growth of the country at large.

Against Boycotting Circuses

People should not boycott circuses since they establish good practices for developing the business economy. This goes a long way to establishing employment opportunities for many people. For example, major circuses employ more than 100 workers to undertake different activities. Moreover, the average hourly wage for every employee is roughly $19, with the earnings for the ringmaster being approximately $38,000 each year. Each circus creates jobs for workers who have a passion for articulating their abilities and benefiting from different opportunities. Conversely, despite creating jobs, there are numerous drawbacks of utilizing animals in circuses. For example, most animals are made to remain caged or chained for over 90% of their time (McCulloch and Reiss 89). People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have been protesting the torture of animals that happens during training. Inhumane treatment of animals, which sometimes leads to their death, should not be allowed under the guise of creating employment.

Proponents of animal circuses have affirmed that people should not boycott them as they help generate chances for learning regarding the habitats and activities of different animals. A major benefit of this approach is that circuses enable animals to have longer and healthier lives (Tyson 224). This is caused by the minimization of the daily hustles of the animals. Rather than hunting for their prey, animals are appropriately fed in their cages or living zones. Circuses are also known for saving and using orphaned and endangered animals. On the contrary, although circuses may be praised for rescuing animals, they should be condemned for oppressing them, sometimes even leading to death. Many circuses are more concerned with making huge profits than caring for the animals. In this regard, they could hurt the animals during training if they find that they are not cooperative enough to learn new tricks to entertain guests and spectators.

People against boycotting circuses affirm that keeping animals such as monkeys and leopards in cages is safer than letting them remain in the wild where their lives are at greater risk. They are also convinced that having dolphins in place, such as the Ocean Park, makes it safer for them than leaving them in polluted seas and oceans. The animals in circuses are also given the right to choose whether to entertain people or not (Iftime 102). The animals are suitably trained, enjoy practicing the tricks they have learned, and are keen to take part in the shows since it is out of their free will that they entertain people. Since they generate huge sums of money, the animals are well taken care of, in good living conditions, and their health is checked from time to time. Contrarywise this, many of the animals in circuses, are kept in small and filthy cages for long periods where they defecate and eat. This risks their health makes them uncomfortable and exposes them to harsh conditions such as excessive heat, which endangers their lives.

Proponents urge people not to boycott circuses because they create livelihoods for a huge number of people. Moreover, the trainers are professionals with excellent skills and experience in preparing dangerous animals such as elephants, lions, and killer whales for the shows in the most appropriate way. Many years of experience have also enabled trainers to learn the behavior of the animals hence making it possible for them to educate guests and other visitors on the same (Tyson 224). As the spectators go to circuses and watch the animals performing their tricks, they also understand the animals more, which makes people value them. Quite the reverse, trainers are known to use excessive force such as electrical shock and extreme beating, which is cruelty towards innocent animals. Perhaps as a way of expressing their anger and frustration, some animals such as elephants and killer whales have gone out of control and even killed people in circuses. This also implies that animals are not intelligent enough regarding their behavior towards spectators or expressing their frustrations to the wrong people. When in their new and unnatural settings, animals act in varying ways, and training may not even control their behavior since they have a brain and conduct of their own.


Elephants, dolphins, leopards, bears, apes, monkeys, and many other animals are nowadays being trained in different tricks that they perform to entertain people in circuses. They do not play such tricks willingly but do so out of suffering and beating behind the scenes. Trainers utilize painful weapons such as whips, bullhooks, and electrical shock to force the animals to engage in such futile and physically involving activities. Nevertheless, supporters maintain that animals in circuses are not subjected to any stress during training, shows, and transportation. Although circuses have some profits, they should be boycotted or even banned because their disadvantages outweigh their advantages.

Works Cited

Doss, Anthony. “The Profit and Loss Report on Animal Rights: How Profit Maximization Has Driven the Stagnation of the Legal Identification of Animals as Property.” The University of Massachusetts Law Review, vol. 13, no. 1, 2018, pp. 140-147.

Hadley, John. “From Welfare to Rights Without Changing the Subject.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, vol. 20, no. 5, 2017, pp. 993-1004.

Iftime, Oana. “Circus Animals-How Much is ‘Unfair’?” Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics, vol. 27, 2017, pp. 100-104.

Krepitch, Tom. “How the Show Goes On: Wild Animals in the Circus.” Animal Law, vol. 1, 2017, pp. 20-24.

Loeb, Josh. “Circus Ban Opens Up Can of Worms.” The Veterinary Record, vol. 185, no. 1, 2019, pp. 3-10.

McCulloch, Steven, and Michael Reiss. “A Proposal for a UK Ethics Council for Animal Policy: The Case for Putting Ethics Back into Policy Making.” Animals, vol. 8, no. 6, 2018, pp. 88-94.

Mormede, Pierre, et al. “Animal Welfare: Context, Definition, Evaluation.” INRA Productions Animales, vol. 31, no. 2, 2018, pp. 145-162.

Tyson, Elizabeth. “The Welfare of Performing Animals: A Historical Perspective.” Journal of Animal Ethics, vol. 7, no. 2, 2017, pp. 223-225.

Waters, Adele. “Welfare: Are We Heading to a Golden Age?” The Veterinary Record, vol. 182, no. 21, 2018, pp. 585-590.

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