The welfare of captive wild animals used in circus performances is severely compromised by their training, performances, poor living conditions, and in a number of cases their capture from the wild.
The conditions in which circus animals are often housed are at best unsuitable, at worst barbaric and cruel. Animals are frequently held in close confinement, and social animals, such as elephants and macaques, are often housed in isolation The lack of appropriate social interaction, and the restricted freedom to perform many natural behaviours represent psychological and physical stressors for many performing animals.
The animals are released from the confinement of their barren cages for the few minutes of their “performance” and for training sessions. The training techniques adopted in order to force circus animals to perform unnatural tricks are brutal. Trainers often beat animals until they perform a desired trick, withhold food, and use force and fear to ensure animals continue to perform day after day.
During training and performances, the animals are exposed to regular human handling and excessive noise. Loud music used during animal performances, together with crowd noise, can cause stress and severe welfare problems.
To render some animals, such as tigers and lions, less dangerous to trainers, detoothing and declawing are common practices, causing severe and chronic pain and leads to an inability for the animals to perform natural behaviours.
Teaching animals to perform inappropriate tricks portrays them to the public in a humiliating manner, instead of showing their natural grace and beauty and thereby promoting empathy and respect.