AR-FAQ - #72

#72 What is wrong with circuses and rodeos?

To treat animals as objects for our amusement is to treat them without the respect they deserve. When we degrade the most intelligent fellow mammals in this way, we act as our ancestors acted in former centuries. They knew nothing about the animals' intelligence, sensitivities, emotions, and social needs; they saw only brute beasts. To continue such ancient traditions, even if no cruelty were involved, means that we insist on remaining ignorant and insensitive. But the cruelty does exist and is inherent in these spectacles. In rodeos, there is no show unless the animal is frightened or in pain. In circuses, animals suffer most before and after the show. They endure punishment during training and are subjected to physical and emotional hardships during transportation. They are forced to travel tens of thousands of miles each year, often in extreme heat or cold, with tigers living in cramped cages and elephants chained in filthy railroad cars. To the entrepreneurs, animals are merely stock in trade, to be replaced when they are used up. DVH

David Cowles-Hamar writes about circuses as follows in his "The Manual of Animal Rights":

Not surprisingly, a considerable amount of "persuasion" is required to achieve these performances, and to this end, circuses employ various techniques. These include deprivation of food, deprivation of company, intimidation, muzzling, drugs, punishment and reward systems, shackling, whips, electronic goads, sticks, and the noise of guns...Circus animals suffer similar mental and physical problems to zoo animals, displaying stereotypical behavior...Physical symptoms include shackle sores, herpes, liver failure, kidney disease, and sometimes death...Many of the animals become both physically and mentally ill.


The American rodeo consists of roping, bucking, and steer wrestling events. While the public witnesses only the 8 seconds or so that the animals perform, there are hundreds of hours of unsupervised practice sessions. Also, the stress of constant travel, often in improperly ventilated vehicles, and poor enforcement of proper unloading, feeding, and watering of animals during travel contribute to a life of misery for these animals. As half a rider's score is based on the performance of the bucking horse or bull, riders encourage a wild ride by tugging on a bucking strap that is squeezed tightly around the animal's loins. Electric prods and raking spurs are also used to stimulate wild behavior. Injuries range from bruises and broken bones to paralysis, severed tracheas, and death. Spinal cords of calves can be severed when forced to an abrupt stop while traveling at 30 mph. The practice of slamming these animals to the ground during these events has caused the rupture of internal organs, leading to a slow, agonizing death. Dr. C. G. Haber, a veterinarian with thirty years experience as a meat inspector for the USDA, says: "The rodeo folks send their animals to the packing houses where...I have seen cattle so extensively bruised that the only areas in which the skin was attached was the head, neck, legs, and belly. I have seen animals with six to eight ribs broken from the spine and at times puncturing the lungs. I have seen as much as two and three gallons of free blood accumulated under the detached skin." JSD