In today’s society, we mostly view circuses as stage performances like Cirque du Soleil. However, the classic circus full of traveling animals still exists in our current time. In our society, holding animals captive is widely accepted. Everyone has a pet and people visit zoos daily. This is because most of the time, the animals are treated pretty well, and if they’re not, the owners are subject to punishment. Unfortunately, in circuses that still host animals, things are much worse.
The purpose of having a pet is to have a friend and member of the family. Of course, then, most people treat their pets well. The purpose of zoos is for us to be able to see wild animals that we might not have ever had the chance of seeing up close. Zoos give opportunities for researchers to learn more about a species in order to help the ones that exist in the wild. The purpose of animals in circuses is to strictly entertain the crowd. Circus owners and operators claim the circus is for educational purposes, but there isn’t much to learn from watching animals be tortured into performing embarrassing tricks.
Circus sympathizers claim that this rarely happens, but unfortunately, abuse happens daily. In the U.S., you’re more likely to get in legal trouble for not properly caring for animals. In other countries with more lenient animal abuse laws, it’s much easier to get away with mistreating an animal. Here are 15 of the most heartbreaking photos that exist in situations with circus animal abuse.
15. This Bear Is Trained To Walk On Its Back Legs
Bears definitely have the ability to walk on their back legs, but it isn’t a talent that necessarily comes naturally or easily to them. In order to get them to be able to walk on their back legs more often, they are trained using the method above from a circus in China. They get a rope tied around their neck and are then dragged across two long poles to encourage them to walk upright. Sometimes, they’re even burned on the fronts of their paws to make it too painful to walk on the front paws. Bears can’t always comprehend what’s going on or what their trainers want from them, so they will still walk on their front paws and just endure the pain. In some countries, even endangered bears are used in circus acts. The fronts of bear’s noses are often broken as well to encourage them to listen and behave for their trainer.
14. This Monkey Is Terrified Of His Owner
This picture is pretty disturbing to see. The monkey is obviously absolutely terrified of its trainer. Its trainer is using quite some force-you can see that in his body movement. In his right hand he is holding a whip that he uses on the monkey. For a man much larger than this little innocent creature, you’d think the man wouldn’t need to use so much excessive force. The poor little monkey is also chained to the bicycle, something that it is forced to ride regularly. When most of us are children, it’s difficult enough to learn how to ride a bike with our loving parents teaching us. Imagine what this monkey had to endure from its owner during their training sessions. Unfortunately, this picture is taken in China as well, a place where there are very few laws protecting the rights of innocent creatures like this monkey.
13. This Elephant Has Very Little Mobility
Elephants are one of the animals in the circus that might have it the worse out of all of the innocent creatures subjected to torture. Elephants are massive animals that require a lot of care, especially if they’re going to be held captive by humans. They enjoy traveling in groups, but oftentimes, elephants are left alone and in small spaces for long periods of time. They also require very strong legs, as elephants are very heavy and usually stand for long periods of time. Unfortunately, their legs are often the parts used to poke and prod as punishment for not performing properly. It’s not clear why the elephant above is chained up the way it is, but it’s pretty obvious that it’s not in good condition. Innocent animals like this should not be chained up worse than some criminals in the world.
12. Dogs Are Caged Up To 23 Hours A Day
A lot of people might not think of a dog when you think of a circus animal, but it is true that man’s best friend is often used to entertain circus goers. Dogs are a very easy animal to train and fairly inexpensive compared to their other more exotic costars. While dogs are still very interesting and talented, many people travel to the zoo to see the big cats and elephants. This means dogs get little stage time, and unfortunately for most, stage time is part of the few moments a day when they aren’t trapped in a small cage. When they aren’t on stage or in a cage, they’re going through grueling training for their performances. Trainers often use whips on all animals, but especially on dogs they often use small hooks to poke the animals as punishment during training. They can often attach the hooks to their hand and make it seem as though they are petting the dogs on stage, when in reality, they might be using a sharp device.
11. Cats Are Forced To Do Difficult Tricks
If you’ve ever tried to teach a cat a trick, you know it’s nearly impossible. Cats are independent creatures that don’t take well to being forced to do something. They aren’t afraid to lash out on you either. When you have a big cat, these things are all especially true. In order to protect the safety of the circus trainers and performers, cats’ claws and teeth are often ripped out in order to ensure even if they attack, not much damage will be done. This is devastating, as the claws of cats are the same as our fingers. It would be as though someone chopped all of our fingers off, pulled out all of our teeth, and made us perform in front of screaming people that stressed us out. These “operations” are also not routinely done by actual veterinarians, as that would be expensive and many doctors would refuse to do such an invasive and damaging procedure.
10. This Elephant Is Forced To Give Rides
This elephant’s name is Nosey, and she is often forced to work long and grueling hours by her trainer, Hugo Leibel. Hugo is known for being a terrible trainer and overall person, as he has more than two hundred animal welfare violations to his name. Many of these include neglecting to provide veterinary care to Nosey, who suffers from arthritis. This arthritis causes her extreme pain just standing, but having to carry people around makes it all the worse. Unfortunately, her arthritis was caused by being chained so tightly by heavy chains that she could barely move around. He is able to escape a lot of prosecutions and barely pass veterinarian inspections because he doesn’t always reveal the past history of his charges and Nosey’s healthcare history. She is still participating in acts with Hugo, and it doesn’t look like her treatment has increased for the better yet.
9. Some Loads Can Be Heavy
Hugo is known for making her tow trucks and trailers out of mud for some shows! It’s hard enough for her to carry her own weight and walk around without pain, but Hugo puts her through grueling and embarrassing acts that cause her all the more pain. Hugo even uses a bullhook on her often. A bullhook is a weapon used to train elephants. It jabs and prods the elephant and often triggers aggression. Hugo uses this to maintain control over Nosey. His treatment is not only dangerous to Nosey but to the general public as well. Nosey has already attacked one person because of the aggression she carries from her torturous training. Although it’s clear that this treatment is not OK and very harmful to the animal, people still enjoy riding on the elephant just so they can get a good picture for social media.
8. Animals Live Like Prisoners
It is estimated that 90% of a circus animals’ life is spent behind bars. They are forced into cages where they barely have room to lay down or turn around. They often have to defecate inside their own cell, and must lay in it. They aren’t given the proper amount of food and water, and living conditions are a nightmare. A lot of the time in travelling circuses is spent driving across the country. This means that the animals must sit in these tiny cages while riding around on roads that they don’t know. The most heartbreaking part is that these animals don’t understand why this is happening to them. Everything they endure is an unnatural way of life, and that can be scary to the animal. They often exhibit signs of self-harm and mutilation due to stress, such as banging their heads against the sides of their cages and trying to eat their own limbs.
7. Cages For Big Cats Are Tiny
Lions and tigers are known as being the kings of the jungle and savannah. Unfortunately, they don’t live anything like kings in the circus world. Oftentimes, the cages are only big enough to fit the animal, giving them almost no room to even turn around. This is very harmful to a lion. When they are anxious, they have the desire to pace back and forth, but when they can’t do this either, they get frantic. It’s almost like they’re living in one constant panic attack. Big cats like these, if they haven’t already had their teeth ripped out, are known to chew on the bars of their cages until their teeth get dull and tiny from all the gnawing. Cats also like to hide and stay secluded, so being so trapped makes them all the more vulnerable and neurotic.
6. This Monkey Is Forced To Stand Up Right
Unfortunately, this isn’t the same monkey we saw earlier, but it is the same trainer. Instead of teaching the monkey to ride a bicycle, this one is forced to learn how to walk on stilts. The only form of support the monkey has from falling is the trainer’s use of the chain to suspend him by his neck. This treatment is truly sickening. The primate is the closest animal to humans, so seeing this innocent creature endure this is all the more painful. You can clearly see the anguish on the monkey’s face. This monkey pretty much has no use of any of its limbs, but it doesn’t have the ability to understand that it’s supposed to walk on the stilts, causing it intense fear and confusion. Even when the monkey does learn how to properly walk on the stilts without the force of the chain, it will still remember the pain caused during training and have to practice the trick in fear.
5. These Circus Owners Use Their Elephant For Advertising
As if this elephant wasn’t enduring enough, now it has to live with advertising a candidate it has no ability to speak out against. It’s not surprising that this candidate’s followers also support animal slavery, however. The Trump family is known for partaking in animal cruelty, as his sons enjoy participating in gruesome African wildlife hunting. Not only is it cruel to keep an elephant captive, but it’s extra evil to use them as if they were a billboard. It’s pretty difficult to try to train a big beast like this, so it’s not uncommon for even seemingly nice people to use torturous tactics to maintain power over the beast. Elephants could easily kill us without breaking a sweat, so it takes a very broken elephant to maintain control and resist tearing this cowboy apart.
4. Cholita Is A Rescued Bear
Cholita’s story is probably one of the saddest among circus animals. She is an endangered spectacled bear, but from this picture she looks like a different kind of beast. Luckily Cholita was rescued from a circus in Peru, but not soon enough. Her claws were ripped from her paws, leaving mangled hands that are difficult to walk on. Her teeth have been smashed out of her face as well so that she didn’t harm any of the handlers. Due to the poor living conditions and stress, Cholita lost all of her hair as well. What was once a beautiful endangered animal quickly turned into a disturbing abuse victim. Luckily, Cholita was rescued from the Peru circus and will be living in a U.S. sanctuary for the rest of her life. Cholita will be able to find peace in the sanctuary, along with 33 other rescue lions from the zoo.
3. Baby Elephants Must Be “Broken”
In order to control a beast like an elephant, as previously discussed, a lot of force needs to be used. These animals don’t give in to force so easily, so it requires a lot of training to get them to submit. In order to make them listen to their trainers early, they’re ripped from their family at a young age. Trucks drive the family apart, causing mothers to lose children. The elephants are then trapped and sold to circus trainers. There, they get all of their limbs tied up and are beaten, sometimes electrocuted, until they’re “broken.” The act of breaking really just means breaking the spirit of the young elephant in order to make sure they’re loyal to the trainer. The sad part is that it’s pretty hard to do this with older elephants, so oftentimes the elephants you see in circuses have been doing this their entire life and it’s the only thing they know.
2. Baby Bears Are Trained To Stand Up
Like we saw earlier, some circuses in China use extreme measures to train bears to walk upright, like pulling them along poles by their neck. But with baby bears, circus trainers use a different tactic. They find it’s easiest to chain a baby bear up by its neck in order to teach it to walk on its back two legs. This process means that if the baby can’t hold itself up, it runs the risk of choking or possibly hanging itself. The little innocent babies are forced to go through this process for hours a day. When bears walk on their hind legs, it can cause serious health issues that they’ll have to deal with forever. There are plenty of humane ways to teach bears how to walk on their back legs; however, these methods take long periods of time and require patience and compassion. These are obviously things that are lacking in the circus community.
1. This Monkey Gets Swung By Its Neck For Entertainment
This is definitely one of the most heartbreaking photos on the list. The monkey is obviously enduring a great deal of pain and fear, all for entertainment. The monkey is chained by the neck to the head of the goat, who flails its head out of fear and anger. Seeing bears and monkeys in zoos can be quite interesting, but who in their right mind would find entertainment in this? This monkey is an innocent animal, and even though it does exhibit some human characteristics, in no way is it able to perform the tricks humans can, or be capable of comprehending what is happening to it. The goat is going through some torture as well, as the monkey is rather heavy on its head. Both animals also run the risk of attacking each other, thinking the other is responsible for the torture. Unfortunately, the only evil ones in the situation are the trainers and the people who sit back and watch it all happen.