Animals have been used as entertainment for centuries. They are used in a variety of different ways, but the main forms of animal entertainment are show animals and fighting animals. Our fascination with animals has extended to domestic pets, with home videos of cute pets going viral on a daily basis. Indeed, to a large extent, the use of animals as a form of entertainment has been normalised in our society. However, there has been a growing backlash in recent years against animal based entertainment, and not just by animal welfare organisations. Recently, concerns over animal rights have permeated the consciousness of the general public.
It has been noted by many animal welfare organisations that animals should not be kept in captivity. Animals who have spent a long time, or who have been raised, in captivity often exhibit worrying behaviours. A classic example is the repetitive pacing of certain animals (usually wild cats) in cages, sometimes referred to as “cage madness”. It is estimated that circus animals spend about 96% of their lives in chains or locked in cages. The use of animals for human entertainment gets much darker with regard to fighting animals. Cockfighting and dogfighting are horrific blood sports in which animals are often forced to fight one another to the death. Despite the fact that both of these blood sports are illegal in every US state, people still engage in them illegally.
The mindset of today’s world is changing, and supporting animal-based entertainment (with the exception of cute pet videos!) is something that most socially aware individuals are seriously reconsidering. While there are organisations that do their best to conserve and care for animals, the majority of animal-based entertainments exploit animals in the name of profit. Our list of shocking truths about animal-based entertainment presents some raw facts that explain why we should all be a little bit terrified of the industries that exploit vulnerable animals. PETA sums it up perfectly on their website with the words; “Many people die fighting for freedom — most captive animals die without ever seeing it. Animals who would normally spend their entire lives with their close-knit families are sentenced to an eternity of boredom, crippling loneliness — and even sheer terror.”
5. Physical Punishments
Animals in the entertainment industry are often beaten into submission by cruel trainers. There are countless reports of this happening, but for the purpose of this article, let’s focus on one of the most disturbing cases: The Ringling Brother’s Circus. This renowned circus, founded in the early 20th century, is a household name in America. Amidst other claims of animal abuse, the Ringling Bros. was the subject of a secret investigation by PETA in 2009. Over the course of many weeks, PETA secretly filmed Ringling Bros. trainers backstage whipping, hitting and punching the animals. The elephants were treated worst. It was reported that the elephants were beaten will bullhooks until they bled. The hidden cameras also revealed how the animals had been impacted mentally by such ordeals. Unnatural swaying, shuffling and head-bobbing was recorded. These kinds of behaviours made apparent that the animals are suffering mentally as well as physically.
Unfortunately, the Ringling Bros. circus continues to operate. However, it seems that steps are being made in the right direction. This month, LA City Council began plans to ban the use of bullhooks, or any instrument designed to cause pain, on circus elephants. The law will not come into play until 2017 – but hopefully other states will follow suit.
There are many animals who live extremely happy lives as domestic pets. Animals and humans can develop incredibly special relationships, and this is certainly true in terms of domestic pets. However, it must be noted that not all domestic pets are cared for properly. In fact, the rate of domestic animal abuse is on the rise. The problem is that many people do not understand the responsibility of caring for an animal. Animals need love, care, attention and money. Families need to be able to pay pets’ veterinary bills as well as food and general animal care. Many people underestimate what they need to provide for their pet, which is the primary cause of abandonment. In the UK, the RSPCA took in 130,000 abused and abandoned domestic animals in 2013 alone. Unfortunately, the RSPCA struggles to cope with demand, and many of the animals they take in have to be put down.
3. Unnatural Performances
Animals do not perform tricks in the wild. Thus, to think that their behaviour in circuses and marine parks is natural and healthy is pretty naive. Although some of the tricks that they perform can be visually stunning, we must keep in mind that the animals are being forced into it. In the wild, tigers have shown that they have a natural fear of fire. Contrast this with the popular circus trick of tigers jumping through flaming hoops and the level of training and submission forced upon the tigers becomes apparent. Recently, leaked documents reveal that Seaworld gives its performance animals anti-anxiety drugs. If the animals are in a stable condition, and performing has no effect on them, then why would these drugs be necessary?
Animals used in TV shows and films are no different. It is not natural for an animal, particularly a wild animal, to be subjected to such a level of submission and repetitive actions. Famously, Gina Johnson resigned from her position as an animal monitor on the set of the film the “Life of Pi”. She reported that the tiger had not been cared for properly, and also reported that at one stage, the tiger almost drowned.
It is no secret that animals that are used for entertainment are kept in cramped, confined conditions. Circuses and Seaworld do not operate all year round, 24 hours a day. Where do you think the animals are kept when nobody is there to pay to look at them? Unfortunately, animals are kept in cages. Due to the detailed research of many animal psychologists and wildlife experts, it is now irrefutable that animals suffer mental distress from being kept in captivity. Wild animals are meant to live in the wild. A small cage with some trees to climb on is not the same as a forest to a monkey. Likewise, a man made pool will never be the same as an ocean to an orca.
In the recent documentary film Blackfish, it was claimed that during his early days as a performer, the controversial killer whale Tilikum was confined in a tiny, floating metal box when he wasn’t performing. Tilikum had no space to turn around, and thus had to float alone in the dark for hours on end. The film argues that this treatment led Tilikum to develop a form of psychosis, which may be the reason why he has murdered three of his trainers to date. As well as psychological damage, confinement deprives animals of what they need- companionship, space and freedom. Animals cannot coexist in captivity as they would in their natural, wild communities.
1. Strenuous Demands
Animals used for entertainment have to be just that – entertaining. These animals are thus put through ruthless training and exercise regimes, completely alien to anything these animals would experience in the wild. This is particularly true in the case of greyhounds, and how they are used for racing. Many people presume that because live rabbits are not used in dog racing anymore, that the practice is somewhat humane. On the contrary, the greyhounds themselves live truly grim lives.
Subjected to racing for the purpose of entertainment and gambling, greyhounds often die of heatstroke and heart attacks because of the cruel expectations placed upon them. When the greyhounds are not racing, they are kept in tiny cages and rarely have enough room to move around. As you can imagine, the dogs get worn out very quickly. Dogs that cannot race anymore are usually shot or donated to laboratories for medical experiments.
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