Their Suffering Should End

By Brittany Dole

On April 4, 2018, a circus trailer carrying elephants for a show in Spain overturned, and killed one elephant, with two others seriously injured.

The rest of the group survived the accident, but appeared to be in a state of distress due to the trauma. A petition was filed and sent to the Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy Brey by a group called Care2Team.

Apparently, Spain has not joined other European countries in their ban of the animal entertainment industry.

What will it take for things to change?

This is not just an issue in Spain. Animals and humans are being put at risk everyday in the business of circus acts. Animals should live in the wild, not train cars on tour.

The first American circus performance took place all the way back in 1793 (“An Abbreviated History of the Circus in America”). There is no denying the popularity of this interesting form of “family” entertainment.

Acrobats, clowns, elephants, lions, monkeys, and sometimes even bears travel across the country, attracting all ages and more importantly for the industry; a sell-out crowd. The (in)famous Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey show used to make their way through 140+ cities each year, that was until May 2017 when they had their final show. The classic circus company that attracted families seeking “wholesome” entertainment and a day filled with tasty concession stand visits, closed down shortly after ticket sales dropped. PETA and other animal rights groups were pressuring their team to let elephants be free of the abuse and containment that surfaced in videos of their training and harsh treatment.

This served as a great victory for those animals, but Ringling Bros. was not the only circus company forcing animals to be performers.

The human population has the right to a day of delight, but more changes need to happen elsewhere, with either a complete ban of animal performers, or a bit of regulation for the animals’ sake and the other performers beside them.

Keep in mind, the animals are not the only ones left shaking, trapeze artists and acrobats are also putting it all on the line, for a round of applause. However, they have more of a choice, as it is their job. Some people also have a phobia of clowns, but that is not a legitimate reason to stop the circus, as phobic people can just not go. Animals do not have a voice.

As for the main argument, the sad reality is that animals are not born to star in a traveling show, and jump through rings for a crowd-pleaser. These creatures have family in their natural habitat, whether that be the grassy Savannah, or the wilderness. The entire idea of the circus is argued by many to be cruel, when the acts are not practicing or being trained, many are secured in a small cage with little to no access to food and water.

Due to the intense schedule and demand of this business, many elephants and other large animals are forced to reside in small crates as they ride the train to the next destination, with just enough space to turn their bodies. Since the trains are not first class travel, the weather can make things worse as there is no heating or air onboard.

Also, the use of leg shackles on the elephants has sparked controversy, rightfully so because they are not prisoners, and the amount of pain that they experience is enough to demand a change. “Lack of exercise and long hours standing on hard surfaces are major contributors to foot infections and arthritis, the leading causes of death among captive elephants” ( “11 Facts About Circus Animal Abuse”).

This practice is not only inhumane, but physically and mentally draining for the “talent.” PETA planned an undercover investigation and discovered a large amount of federal Animal Welfare Act violations. “In lieu of a USDA hearing, Feld Entertainment, Inc. (the former parent company of Ringling Bros.), agreed to pay an unprecedented $270,000 fine for violations of the AWA that allegedly occurred between June 2007 and August 2014” (“Circuses Three Rings of Abuse”).

Many trailers were found in horrifying conditions, featuring problems like wood splinters and sharp pieces of metal sticking out (“11 Facts About Circus Animal Abuse”). It is very important to keep in mind the amount of revenue big companies (in the same ballpark as Ringling Bros) reel in. Forbes Magazine reported a total close to $1 billion in revenue for the year 2013, and numbers in 2015 were near that total.  Point being, $270,000 does not sound like a devastating hit to their net worth.

The storage of these animals is not the only problem, unfortunately. Training does take place, and can be very abusive according to reports from PETA investigators and sources connected to certain circuses. Monkeys riding scooters is not natural, nor will it ever be.

Many will argue that these claims are all fabricated, or simply that animals do not know any better. Whether or not all productions use whips, yelling, or shock lasers as punishment, or a training tactic— still does not change the fact that the circus is not in any way a normal or loving environment for wild animals. The undercover investigation captured video of a violent training session that included all of the abusive tactics mentioned above. Of course the animals are not going to willingly do tricks, because that is not in their nature. If they are beaten into submission, the crew responsible for this abuse should be punished.

Bottom line is that animals are not given choices, but that doesn’t mean humans have the right to put them in positions that are cruel, especially for dollar signs.

I support popcorn, photo booths, entertainers that acknowledge risks, but I will never think it is ethical to put an outfit on a majestic elephant and applaud as it does tricks.

These beautiful creatures are scared, and deserve a better life free of chains and whips.