The HSUS and ASPCA Agree: Circuses with wild animals are inherently cruel

Like Animals? Don't go to the Circus

A lifetime of abuse

Undercover video shows elephants being repeatedly beaten with bull hooks and electric prods. Wild animals used in circus acts are routinely beaten, poked, and shocked with electric prods, all to force them to perform unnatural tricks for an unsuspecting viewing public.

Trainers use these tactics to try to dominate wild animals and force them to act against their natural instincts. Tigers are made to jump through flaming hoops, elephants are forced to wear tutus or balance themselves on small balls, and bears are required to ride tricycles, just for our amusement.

Elephant handler with bullhook at Yuma circus
Elephant handlers always carry a bullhook with them. This photo was taken in Yuma during the Jordan World CIrcus in 2009.
Want to see the bullhook in action?

Caged for life

When not performing, elephants are kept chained in barren stalls or semi-trailers. These same elephants regularly walk twenty miles a day in the wild. Animals traveling in circuses are rarely allowed out of their small, often dirty cages except to perform. After a show, they're typically locked up to travel to the next town. The Jordan World Circus’ three elephants are crammed into a single semi-trailer. Their Lions and tigers remain in small cages on the bottom of semi-trailers.

The Jordan World Circus travels tens of thousands of miles a year across the United States turning a profit by cramming as many performances and miles in as possible at the expense of their animals.

Elephants inside semi-trailer.
The Jordan World Circus has a single semi-trailer truck for all three of their elephants.

Dangerous to the public

Elephants who have endured inhumane training methods sometimes strike back at their trainers or rampage through audiences, causing injuries and death. Circus lions and tigers have escaped and performing chimpanzees have injured audience members when adequate barriers were not in place. All the training in the world cannot take the "wild" out of wild animals. There's no telling when they might attack or attempt to flee. And escaped animals are often killed in the interest of public safety when recapture is difficult or delayed.

Current laws don't do enough

The Animal Welfare Act enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), creates only minimum standards for animals in traveling exhibits—and it is poorly enforced. Persistent violators are rarely prosecuted, and those who are usually only face fines. Animal trainers sometimes use cosmetics on animals to cover up injuries from ankle restraints and open sores from beatings, and they may hide abused animals from view during inspections. Fortunately, some communities are taking action—either by banning circuses that use animals or by prohibiting them from using ankuses or bull hooks, sticks with sharpened metal hooks that trainers use to beat, pull, push, torment, and threaten elephants. These communities have sent a clear message that they won't tolerate such abuse within their boundaries.