Animal rights lovers can rejoice over this news: Italy just banned the use of elephants, tigers, monkeys, and all other animals in circuses or traveling shows. At least 2,000 animals that have been used in circuses in Italy will now be free to live a different life.
Though Italy is not the first country to put animal rights first in passing this type of legislation, they join 41 additional countries that have banned animals in circuses, including places like Costa Rica, Taiwan, Iran, and Columbia.
PETA and other organizations have detailed the abuse and neglect that circus animals often endure. In the least, due to a life on the road, animal’s food, water, housing, and veterinary care is often minimal if not severely lacking. Elephants, for example, are kept in leg shackles in their traveling cages that don’t allow them to move even a single foot forward or backward. Animals are exploited for our entertainment, but many people do not realize the kind of life that a circus animal often leads.
Baboons, chimpanzees and other primates are highly intelligent and social animals. Just like us they may not feel like “performing” another show, yet their handlers often beat and abuse them into doing tricks for the awe-struck crowds that attend shows under the big canvas.
Though people have enjoyed the circus for decades, the animals often don’t. Estimates are that these animals spend more than 96% of their lives in chains or cages, and they are “trained” using trained extreme “discipline” such as whipping, hitting, poking, and shocking with electrical prods. This says nothing of the verbal abuse that is used, which increasingly we learn, animals completely understand.
Even some of the tricks that the animals perform, like elephants standing on their heads on tiny platforms, are very uncomfortable for the animals. (An adult elephant weighs approximately 6,000 kg. Now ask yourself if it should be made to stand on its head?)
Though some animal rights activists have raised questions about where animals will be sent that are retired from their circus duties, with options including zoos and private ownership, others suggest that these animals should be sent to animal sanctuaries where they can roam free, and heal from years of abuse.
GFAS (Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries) regulated sanctuaries are monitored for the proper care and treatment of animals, but there may by additional, creative ways these animals can be shown the love and care they deserve.
Animals are far more intelligent than we can imagine. Consider this odd trio – a tiger, lion, and bear that have been fast friends for 15 years after being saved from a basement drug raid. Surely, Italy’s ban of circus animals might form similar alliances among circus animals needing rest and recovery from such sordid treatment.
Or, consider this adorable pair, two lion brothers, Pancho and Temuco that were reunited after being rescued from a circus by Animal Defenders International. They can’t seem to love on each other enough.
Italy’s new legislation banning animals from circus acts is an enormous step in the right direction. Now, if the U.S. and U.K. will only follow suit, many thousand more animals can be saved from ill treatment, neglect, and outright abuse.
Moreover, with acts like Cirque du Soleil, you can see human beings willingly perform exquisite dance moves, ice skating moves, hip hop and ballet, acrobatics, bodily contortions, and astounding musical feats, in a completely different kind of circus. One that is arguably much more entertaining than watching a 6000-kg elephant that has been kept in shackles for 8 months of every year, stand on its head.