The Humane Society of the United States opposes the use of wild animals in circuses and other traveling acts because cruelty to animals is inherent in such displays. - Humane Society of the United States
The ASPCA is opposed to using wild or exotic (non-native wild) animals, whether taken from the wild or captive-bred, in circuses, carnivals and other traveling animal shows because of the stress, cruelty and physical, social and psychological deprivations that the animals inevitably suffer, many as a direct result of extended confinement and being on the road much of the year. American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
The following content has been provided by the Humane Society of the United States, "The Truth Behind the Big Top," and has been republished within HSUS guidelines.
CIRCUSES may seem like good family fun. But behind the scenes there's something no circus wants you to see: the suffering of the animals. Wild animals used in circus acts are routinely beaten, poked, and shocked with electric prods, all to force them to perform unnatural tricks for an unsuspecting viewing public. This abuse continues year after year.
Trainers use these tactics to try to dominate wild animals and force them to act against their natural instincts. Tigers are made to jump through flaming hoops, elephants are forced to wear tutus or balance themselves on small balls, and bears are required to ride tricycles, just for our amusement.
The animal's misery continues off the stage. Animals traveling in circuses are rarely allowed out of their small, often dirty cages except to perform. After a show, they're typically locked up to travel to the next town. Elephants are chained inside boxcars and trucks during transport. Lions and tigers may remain in small travel cages with only enough room to stand and turn around.
The trucks and trains they travel on may have no heat or air conditioning. Animals may be deprived of food and water for extended periods during travel and trainin
Elephants who have endured inhumane training methods sometimes strike back at their trainers or rampage through audiences, causing injuries and death. Circus lions and tigers have escaped and performing chimpanzees have injured audience members when adequate barriers were not in place. All the training in the world cannot take the "wild" out of wild animals. There's no telling when they might attack or attempt to flee. And escaped =animals are often killed in the interest of public safety when recapture is difficult or delayed.
The Animal Welfare Act enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), creates only minimum standards for animals in traveling exhibits—and it is poorly enforced. Persistent violators are rarely prosecuted, and those who are usually only face fines. Animal trainers sometimes use cosmetics on animals to cover up injuries from ankle restraints and open sores from beatings, and theymay hide abused animals from view during inspections. Fortunately, some communities are taking action—either by banning circuses that use animals or by prohibiting them from using ankuses or bullhooks, sticks with sharpened metal hooks that trainers use to beat, pull, push, torment, and threaten elephants. These communities have sent a clear message that they won't tolerate such abuse within their boundaries.