Plight of circus animals highlighted as city activists take stand on exploitation

A file picture of a protest against the abuse of animals, including the use of animals in circuses. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

A file picture of a protest against the abuse of animals, including the use of animals in circuses. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Published Aug 16, 2022


Pretoria - The abuse of animals, including the use of animals in circuses, came into sharp focus when the Ban Animal Trading South Africa organisation held a protest in Montana, Pretoria.

The organisation promised that there were more protests were planned in Pretoria this week.

Director Prathna Singh said current peer-reviewed research proved that animals were sentient beings who felt pain, had their own social structures, and their own way of living.

“Given the information we now have on our fingertips, it is clear animals deserve the right to freedom and to live as naturally as possible, on their own terms, and not for human gain in terms of entertainment, clothing, research, food or any other way for profit.

“The otherness of non-human animals does not give us the right to exploit them.

“Animals are held captive in the circus, confined to small enclosures and carted around in tiny trailers from one town to another.

“Their movement is restricted, they are held in unnatural groups rather than the family units found in the wild, and they are prevented from displaying any intrinsic behaviours.

“They are forced to perform unnatural tricks that in no way mimic behaviours in the wild,” Singh said.

She said children in no way received any educational benefits from watching animals in the circus or in a zoo.

“All that the younger generation is learning is that it’s acceptable to confine another being and exploit him or her for our own benefit, simply because they are different to human animals.

“It is a fact that animals in circuses and zoos often suffer from a disorder called zoochosis, causing them to exhibit stereotypical behaviours.

“These repetitive behaviours are brought about by the stress, boredom, frustration and anxiety from which captive animals suffer when they are imprisoned in circuses and zoos.

“If we think back to how difficult it was for people to be house-bound during lockdown, we can understand what animals in zoos and circuses go through with no end to their lockdown in sight,” Singh said.

She said many circuses around the world were investigated due to abuse of their animals and aggressive training methods in which whips, bull hooks and other tools that inflict pain are used.

“A wild animal which is an apex predator, such as a lion or a tiger, will not simply submit to being used as an entertainment prop. Animals are forced into submission, often by means of pain and fear.

“As more people around the world become aware of what animals used in circuses are subjected to, more and more countries are banning the use of animals in circuses.”

Singh said over the weekend, Spain announced that it would be introducing new legislation to ban the use of animals in circuses.

There were various options that circuses could adopt to entertain their audiences without exploiting animals, she said, and these included human-only circus performances and holographic shows.

Singh encouraged the public not to the support any industry which held animals captive.

She said according to the current legislation by which South Africa was governed, the use of animals in circuses was still legal.

“Provided that the circus abides by the very minimum animal welfare standards that are in place, they are able to exploit animals and we are unable to dispute this legally.

“There is, however, a lot of work being done in this aspect and we are confident that we will have a stronger legal standpoint from which to work in the near future.

“While we wait and work towards for these changes, the power to help the animals lies with the people.”

Pretoria News