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Circuses - Training

Animals affected

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






In the ring the animals are presented as submissive to humans: beasts mastered by man, who is supposedly superior to them, and they are forced to do any type of acrobatics that they are told to. With this aim the animals are forced to carry out totally anti-natural behaviour and be laughed at: elephants that dance or stand on their heads, monkeys dressed as ballerinas and bears that ride bikes.      

But despite what some people may still think, wild animals do not perform these acts which go against their nature voluntarily, rather they are repressed and forced to do them. That’s why the training of wild animals in most cases involves the use of violent techniques or deprivation (of food, of relationship with others, of space, etc.), which are applied until the animal becomes submissive and performs the way that is required.

Of all the elements in the circus, the tools used by tamers are diverse, and also well hidden throughout the show. They may consist of sticks up their sleeve, hooks with flowers on the end, hidden electric spikes, whips which appear inoffensive, etc. All this used in combination with key words and gestures which alert the animal and remind it that it had better do what it is told to, and what will happen to it if it doesn’t obey the ringmaster.

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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