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Circuses - Safety

Animals affected

Reptiles, Felines, Primates, Ungulates, Dogs, Dromedaries, Hippos, Horses, Crocodiles, Zebras, Giraffes, Elephants, Tigers, Lions, Camels






The travelling that characterises the circus means that there are safety problems which presents risks both for the animals and for people. It is easy for the animals to have direct contact with people, for example, when there are inappropriate barriers. They may also escape, given that the facilities have to be mobile and therefore seriously lacking in safety. Add to this the fact that most of the time the animals involved are potentially dangerous, generally with high levels of aggressiveness or fear caused by the repression in which they live, makes for situations which could become very dangerous.

It must not be forgotten that wild animals are unpredictable and although most of the time they are  subdued by the circus carers, in certain situations they may rebel and thus become uncontrollable. These circumstances present themselves more often than we think. The animals may get scared by a movement in the crowd, a noise, a flash of light, etc, or in the presence of the tamer who controls them with the threat of a possible punishment.

Catalonia is the first autonomous region to ban circuses with wild animals. The law was passed in 2015 and came into effect in February 2017.

It is also very common in circuses for the animals to be taken out of their cages and used as an attraction for people. They may be made to walk through the streets or tied up in a visible spot as an eye-catching advertisement for the circus.

When an animal attacks a person or escapes from the circus facilities it usually ends up being put down. There is an up to date registry of all the incidents that have taken place with animals in the circus since 1998. These have involved not only carers (such as the tamer from the Circo Mundial who was crushed to death by an elephant in 2010), but also citizens (like the visitor who had an arm ripped of by a tiger in Arganda, Madrid, in 2005).


Our action

At the state level

Through InfoCIRCOS, a coalition made up of the organisations ANDA, Born Free Foundation and FAADA. It was founded in order to protect all wild animals used in circus shows, both in Spain and in other European countries.

  • In areas where there are still circuses with animals, we lobby local government so that they declare the area to be “free from circuses with wild animals”.
  • We offer advice to political parties, organisations and private individuals who are interested in promoting a ban on the use of animals in circuses.
  • We call on the competent authorities (Seprona) to carry out inspections of  circuses in order to check that all the animals are legal and the conditions they are subjected to follow the legislation of animal protection of the different autonomous regions. We also call on them to ensure the enforcement of the laws on the use of potentially dangerous animals, animal trading laws (CITES), etc.
  • We keep citizens informed and aware of the problem areas of having animals in circuses.
  • We put pressure on town councils when a circus performing in their area violates a law. We ask to see all the official paperwork required for the circus to set up in that area.
  • We give talks in schools on the problems involved in the use of wild and domestic animals in the circus.
  • We help rescue illegal or abused animals which have been seized, and relocate them to rescue centres and/or sanctuaries.


At European level

  • Via the coalition of European animal welfare organisations ENDCAP, active since 2006 and made up of 20 organisations from 17 different European countries. They are working to improve conditions for wild animals which are held in captivity.
  • We work with other professionals in Europe to identify solid arguments which support the ban on using wild animals in circuses.
  • We put together technical reports in order to bring to light the problem areas which the different species in the circus develop.
  • We lobby the European Commission and MEPs so that they become aware of the problems of animal well-being involved in these activities, as well as the growing rejection to animals in circuses by society. 
  • From the coalition we support the national bans on the use of wild animals in circuses.
  • We bring to light the inconsistency of the use of animals listed in CITES in the circus.
  • We carry out awareness campaigns among citizens of different European countries on the problems with having wild animals in the circus.


What can you do?

  • Choose not to go to circuses which have animals, there are alternatives such as musicals, theatre and even circuses which don’t use animals. There are famous circuses with a very high standard, such as the Circ du Solei.
  • Let your friends and family know about the problem of animals in the circus.
  • Distribute our posters (lionchimpanzeeseal) and leaflets “Circuses are no fun for animals”.
  • Ask for our information material by writing to: circos@infocircos.org
  • Use our material to organise protests and/or demonstrations.
  • Collect signatures and present them to the mayor to ask him/her not to allow access of circuses with animals into your town.
  • Ask schools to tell children the truth about animals in the circus.


Other sources



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