Circuses, Zoos and Amusement Parks

Circuses, Zoos and Amusement Parks

Circuses, Zoos and Amusement Parks

The show must NOT go on! Keep wildlife in the wild. Boycott Circuses, Zoos and Amusement Parks

All forms of entertainment using captive wild animals to perform for humans is full of endless misery, stress, anxiety, pain, and suffering for the animal. These animals are captured at a young age and forcibly taken away from their families; alone and separated forever, they must then endure horrific training practices, where they experience psychological, emotional and physical trauma and abuse; then perform tricks and acts against their will, where trainers use whips, blunt sticks, electronic prods and sharp objects to punish the animal into submission. These animals live lives of desperate boredom, frustration, and anguish—chained and confined in exceptionally small stalls or cages, where they are immobile the majority of their lives and are driven quietly crazy. Each animal is deprived of living the natural life they were meant to live, they are deprived of exhibiting their natural instincts and behaviors, and instead are forced to perform unnatural, often painful acts, and exploited 24/7. Attending or patronizing circuses and zoos means that you are supporting the exploitation and subjugation of wild animals for personal entertainment, that causes their suffering and misery.


Circuses, Zoos and Amusement ParksCircus animals are deprived from birth of living a life that is natural for them. They have been robbed of their families, social units, natural environments, freedom to move and roam, and instead experience a lifetime of physical and emotional mistreatment, abuse, cruelty, immobilization, confinement, noise, crowds, filth, constant travel—and the deprivation of the ability to engage in their deepest natural and instinctual behaviors. Life for these animals is monotonous, full of pain, stress and frustration. Watching wild animals perform unnatural tricks does not help animals in the wild, nor teach children respect or appreciation for animals. Instead, circuses teach children that it’s acceptable to mistreat, exploit and subjugate animals for our amusement and entertainment. Circuses do not teach wildlife conservation, protection of species, endangerment of species, or anything of value regarding animal welfare, protection and respect. Circuses are purely entertainment at the expense of animals’ well being, welfare, happiness and the natural environment they should have the right to live in.Circuses, Zoos and Amusement Parks


Animals in circuses experience a lifetime of suffering from an early age to old age. They are trained at a very young age using methods that use fear, violence, threats and intimidation causing enormous stress for them. Animal trainers use harsh and repeated punishment and cruel abuse to break their spirit. Standard industry practice is the use of bullhooks and other sharp objects to hit, shock, strike, prod and punish to “train” them. There is little positive reinforcement or rewards used. Instead they teach that humans are to be feared. These animals are never allowed or encouraged to express their natural behavior. Instead, they incur months of abusive training to learn tricks they don’t want to do, then are forced to perform, night after night, for the rest of their miserable lives, until they are physically spent. Circus animals literally are driven insane from experiencing prolonged deep frustration, abuse and aggression from trainers over their lifetime—that they can and do lash out and rebel.

TravelingCircus animals can spend up to 11 months of a year on the road. They are confined inside very small stalls or cages, traveling for thousands of hours, for long distances. It’s disturbing, disrupting, unnatural, frightening and stressful for them. Nearly all circus animals are chained up and immobilized while traveling, and they often must live in their own waste for long periods. They are transported in oversize trucks or trains that are not temperature controlled—exposing these animals to extremes in temperature—both hot and cold. Tranit poses many physical risks to them, including accidents, injury, overheating and freezing temperatures that can make them sick, loud noises and general discomfort. They were not born for this life, and do not want this life. We force this life upon them.

Performing & Behind the Scenes

Circuses, Zoos and Amusement ParksThe tricks these animals perform are often painful for them, they are completely unnatural and can cause physical trauma and stress. When circus animals don’t perform the trick right, they are often beaten for punishment. Bullhooks, whips and electrical prods are used to make sure they obey and perform on command. Behind the scenes, animals are chained and immobilized nearly 24/7 except for training and performing. While not performing, the animals have nothing to do except stare at walls, many are confined to living in dark places with no daylight, sunlight or exposure to the outside for stimulation. Performing is not proper exercise for these species, nor is it play. Virtually 95 percent of their lives is spent in chains, cages and barren conditions.Circuses, Zoos and Amusement Parks


The animals don’t enjoy performing for humans. There are few regulatory protections in place for circus animals, and those that exist, are often ignored or not enforced. Circuses and traveling shows must comply with the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and local laws, but none of these address the cruelty and abuse done to the animals. Most circuses have a long history of violations against the AWA, here are some fact sheets addressing violations of specific circuses. There will never be enough laws to keep circus animals safe and free from harm, but the public can write or call your state legislators, city councils and federal legislators and ask for a ban on circuses that use animals coming to your town.

Report A Circus! Circus or event using animals coming to your area? Please submit This Form!

Get the FACTS

Circuses and the LAW

See circus-specific FACT SHEETS

See the list of Circuses That USE Animals

List of Circuses that DON’T USE Animals

Download Born Free’s PDF brochure for children, order for a class here 

What You Can Do

  1. NEVER attend circuses with animals. Ask family and friends to do the same.
  2. DO ATTEND only circuses and venues that have animal-free entertainment or human-only entertainment
  3. REPORT A CIRCUS! Circus or event using animals coming to your area? Please submit This Form!
  4. TRACK Abuses – When you visit a zoo, track any abuses or substandard conditions where animals are suffering, using this Zoo Check Form. You can either complete it online or download the PDF to fill out, then mail it back to Born Free USA.
  5. CREATE an animal-friendly school policy if going to school – Tell teachers not to attend any animal performing event and why, and distribute the brochure PDF above.
  6. SIGN PETITIONS – Sign petitions, write letters, make phone calls asking circus management to drop the animal acts, and use only human performers. Do the same with local city/county officials. Visit PAWS for writing an effective letter.
  7. WRITE LETTERS – Write letters to newspaper editors and to the sponsors telling them circuses don’t need to feature wild animals to entertain. Ask retailers that support circuses with free tickets to STOP supporting circuses with animal acts. Visit PAWS for writing an effective letter.
  8. SIGN UP – For Action Alert newsletters by nonprofits protecting wildlife and animal welfare. Sign up for PAWS newsletter here.
  9. EDUCATE YOURSELF – Read more about circuses and circus animals at these websites: Born Free USA, Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, Performing Animal Welfare Society, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
  10. LEARN MORE – How you can help, visit PAWS
  11. SPREAD the Word! Share this page on social media, speak out against circuses that use animals.

Animal Welfare Groups Addressing Captive, Performing Animals and Zoos

Articles About the Circus

5 Reasons Why Animal Circuses in the U.S. Need to be Banned NOW!, One Green Planet

Circuses Are No Fun For Animals, Encyclopedia Britannia

11 Facts About Circus Animal Abuse, Do Something

10 Reasons Not To Attend The Circus, PETA

Circuses, PETA


When you look into the eyes of animals at the zoo, you see boredom, sadness, blank stares, broken spirits, frustration, and despair. Many animals also exhibit abnormal psychosis or “zoochosis,” where the animal will relentlessly rock back and forth, chew on their skin or limbs, or pull out their fur or feathers. This sad behavior is rampant in zoos, across many species. Animals in zoos are forced to live their entire livesCircuses, Zoos and Amusement Parks in captivity—in small unnatural spaces or cages, surrounded by artificial environments, where noises overwhelm and frighten them, cameras flash, teenagers taunt and tease and throw things at them, and crowds stress them. They are deprived of everything that is natural for them and that they desire in life.

Captured in the Wild / Zoo Breeding Programs

Circuses, Zoos and Amusement ParksAnimals in zoos don’t have a good past. They start their journey to a zoo either by being captured in the wild, ripped away from their families and shipped long distance into isolation, confinement and captivity in a completely unnatural, foreign environment. Or they are part of a zoo breeding program, and born into confinement and captivity, where they are sold and transferred from one zoo to the next, often over and over again. They are often shuttled around causing deep anxiety, stress, and anguish. Many are highly social animals and they are not allowed to bond with others, many and most are isolated and lonely, leading to obsessive psychotic and abnormal behaviors. They are treated as commodities in zoos, where their personal well being and welfare is not considered, other than to draw crowds and generate revenues for the zoos. Here is more about where zoo animals come from.

Unnatural, Unhealthy Conditions

Circuses, Zoos and Amusement ParksConfined to small enclosures and spaces, animals in the wild will walk long distances and be highly mobile, but in a zoo are locked inside cages, barns, and small enclosures. They are exposed to weather and climate that is unnatural for their species. Some zoos close in winter months due to extreme temperature and snow, and then animals are forced inside cramped, isolated enclosures with no stimulation. The constant confinement causes arthritis in some animals. Captive animals often lose their minds and develop a psychotic condition called “Zoochosis,” where the animal can resort to injuring themselves by chewing on their own limbs, pulling out their fur or feathers, licking endlessly to comfort themselves, and pace back and forth relentlessly. This abnormal psychosis behavior is so common in zoos that zoo veterinarians will tranquillize their animals with antidepressants and put antipsychotics in their food, so they can endure their suffering.


Circuses, Zoos and Amusement ParksThese are the worst of the worst. And many are illegitimate. These animals experience constant stress and misery—they are confined to being kept inside extremely small, often filthy, barren cages or concrete pens, are immobilized on a chain, and live in a completely unnatural environment. They aren’t allowed to exhibit any natural behaviors or express their needs, they lack social interaction with other animals, and lack appropriate and needed stimulation and enrichment. They experience irregular feeding and watering schedules, and are subjected to people and crowds yelling and gaping at them. With constant travel comes constant stress. Animals in these displays and traveling shows spend their entire lives trapped, confined and forced behind bars to entertain the public. This is not entertainment. These animals experience endless and overwhelming boredom, despair, loneliness and often abuse from the people caring for them. Most of them never receive proper veterinary care or preventative health care, and get sick, injured and die prematurely. This is nothing more than torture, misery, sadness and torment for these animals—for greed and profit. Instead watch wildlife documentaries where you actually can learn about the animals and see animals in the wild. And only 100 USDA officers manage 8600 licensees, which means very little, if any, oversight and regulation.

These roadside exhibits are sometimes called “animal sanctuaries,” but they are a far cry from a sanctuary. The term is misleading and considered fraudulent advertising to draw unknowing people. Instead these businesses breed animals in captivity, and exploit their animals and the public—for money and profit. Sanctuaries never breed or sell animals, don’t increase their populations, and their mission has nothing to do with profit—only animal welfare. Here is more about where zoo animals come from.


In the U.S., these can be called wildlife parks, game parks, safari parks or drive-through wildlife preserves. What might not be so obvious about from the outside, is that many are profitable by breeding and selling wild animals to the pet trade or to other exotic animal dealers, producing yet more suffering. Some parks are known for holding surplus animals—out of view. Some parks sell animals on the Internet. One park has bred and sent bears to slaughterhouses, where they have sold bear gall bladders and other body parts to Asia, illegally. The park ran a bear factory farm. Another wildlife drive-through safari bred and sold tigers, shot them off-site and sold their hides. Another park forces elephants to perform for visitors.

Many of these parks have sick and suffering animals with untreated injuries and chronic illnesses, but they routinely deny veterinary care for their animals to cut costs. With sick and dying animals,  they will shoot them, instead of euthanizing them. Some facilities are in complete disrepair and keep animals in unhealthy and unsanitary conditions. Worst of all, there are parks that breed animals in the back and sell the newborns to “Captive Hunting” businesses mainly located in the southern U.S. and Texas. If you are allowed to hold or pet a baby animal, chances are excellent that they breed exotics and sell them for profit – to canned hunting businesses or exotic dealers, or they quietly dispose of the animal once they mature to an adult age and are too old to pet any longer, adding to more animal misery and suffering. Be sure to ask if they breed animals, and if so, why and for what use. PETA notes that these “surplus” wild animals “end up at auctions, in slaughterhouses, or on hunting ranches,” and that these safaris conveniently avoid keeping records that will create a paper trail for oversight, making it so these animals sold on the open market cannot be tracked.


Animals used in petting zoos again are notoriously “using” animals for profit, that causes the animals undue stress, inadequate rest periods, lack of water and proper food and nutrition, and forces them into an environment where they have to interact with people and children all day. This is completely unnatural, unhealthy and stressful for them, and often these animals can snap due to constant touching and handling, when they don’t want to be petted and handled. The spread of infection and bacteria from petting wildlife is also common. Here is more about where zoo animals come from.

What You Can Do

  1. Don’t Patronize Zoos or Wildlife Safaris or Amusement Parks that have Wild Animals – Boycott them! Share the misery of zoos and safaris with friends and family and ask them not to go or buy tickets.
  2. Watch Nature Films Instead – Learn about animals by watching wildlife documentaries, where you can observe animals in their natural habitat, unrestricted.
  3. Watch the FilmNo Place Like Home, by CAPS (Captive Animal Performing Society).
  4. Parents Explain to Children Why Zoos and Safaris Can Be Bad Places – Explain why zoos and potentially wildlife safaris are cruel to animals and why you don’t support them.
  5. Take Children to Visit an Animal Sanctuary Instead – Take children to a place where animals are well cared for in a natural setting like an accredited Animal Sanctuary that is positive for animals and animal welfare. The best ones are accredited with the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries (GFAS). Member sanctuaries don’t breed or use animals in commercial activities, and they provide excellent lifetime care.
  6. Support These Organizations – Like the Born Free Foundation and the Captive Animals Protection Society, both of which work to raise awareness to the issue of captive animals and help save animals from cruelty.
  7. Track Animal Abuses – When you visit a zoo, track any abuses or substandard conditions where animals are suffering, using this Zoo Check Form. You can either complete it online or download the PDF to fill out, then mail it back to Born Free USA.
  8. File an Animal Alert! – If you see a captive animal suffering in a zoo or in captivity, or performing, take positive action and File A Report.

Animal Welfare Groups Addressing Captive Performing Animals and Zoos

Articles to Read

Circuses, Zoos and Amusement Parks




Photo Credits: Courtesy of Pixabay,




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