Don’t Support Wild Animal Acts in Circuses

Dear Friend,

The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) thanks you for your efforts to spread the word about the cruelty inherent in the use of wild animals in circuses and other travelling acts. This information has been created to help individuals and animal protection organisations throughout the country educate the public about the suffering endured by wild animals in circuses.

The information provided herein will assist you in explaining the issue to your friends, neighbours, club members and work colleagues. The information will also be helpful should you wish approach the organiser/municipality in an attempt to stop a circus from being held in your area. Letters can also be sent to newspapers in the area where a circus is scheduled to take place. It is especially important to send a letter to the editor if an article about the circus has appeared in the newspaper. Remember to be polite.

In this manner you can foster public awareness in your community of the danger that using wild animals in circuses poses to the public as well as the animals.


The NSPCA is opposed to any degree of confinement or the use of any animal in sport, entertainment or exhibition likely to cause distress or suffering or which may adversely affect the animal’s welfare.   The NSPCA is totally opposed to exhibitions or presentations of wildlife in circuses and travelling menageries.   Because cruelty to animals is inherent to such displays, we seek to end such uses of wild animals.   We work to achieve this by increasing public awareness and strengthening legislation that protects captive wild and exotic animals.

There are circuses around the world which boast a variety of talented acts that pay tribute to the capabilities of man and his extraordinary ability to stretch the limits.   The best part about this entertainment is that there are no wild animals that are forced to live life continually on the move, in unnatural surroundings and denied the opportunity to express natural behaviour.   The NSPCA applauds these circuses for their progressiveness and for leaving wild animals in the wild where they belong.


Wild animals used in circuses and other travelling acts are routinely subjected to months on the road confined in small, barren cages or in chains.   These animals then demonstrate stereotypic and abnormal behaviour patterns indicative of prolonged stress and suffering.   It is the stress through the process of confinement and transportation that makes up the bulk of the animals’ suffering.

  • Natural environments cannot be recreated in circuses.   Complex environments cannot be set up in circuses because of frequent travelling and extremely small accommodation and exercise areas.   Circus animals’ lives are inevitably impoverished. There is no scientific reason to believe that the natural needs of wild animals can be met through the living conditions and husbandry offered by circuses.
  • The lack of appropriate social interaction, reduction in time spent foraging and the restricted freedom to perform natural behaviours represent stressors for captive animals.   Stress can have short-term as well as long-term behavioural and psychological effects.
  • Circus animals travel frequently.   Many features of travel, such as forced movement, human handling, noise, trailer movement and confinement constitute sources of stress to captive animals.    Reptiles are unsuitable for frequent transportation since they are sensitive to vibration and temperature changes.   Sudden or persistent acoustic or vibratory stimulation can be stressful, and so sources of such stimuli, such as traffic or people, should be minimised.
  • Stereotypical behaviours (pacing, swaying etc) are indications of sub-optimal environments and indications of poorer welfare conditions. Captivity affects behavioural patterns and normal behaviour gives way to a higher percentage of inactivity and/or increased abnormal behaviour (self-directed behaviour or self-injury) and stereotypes.
  • Performing wild animals pose a real threat to public safety, precisely because they are wild and therefore unpredictable.   No amount of training or affection can eliminate this danger.
  • Performing inappropriate and unnatural tricks in the name of entertainment also does nothing to foster respect for animals and desensitizes individuals (especially our impressionable children) to animal suffering.
  • Animals in circuses do not benefit any educational, conservational or scientific cause.