So here we are in 2016 – a time of iPhones, virtual reality, and access to pretty much any kind of entertainment you can dream up. Not only do we have more ways to occupy our minds than ever but we also have access to more information than ever before. And sadly, even with all of the entertainment options we have, we are still allowing wild animals to be tortured so that we can see them perform for us. How is this even possible in a world when anyone who has a social media account has inevitably been exposed to the sad lives of wild animals that are kept in captivity?

Often when we train our pets to sit we do so with a biscuit or some sort of treat as a reward. And that may lead many to believe that that’s how elephants, lions or killer whales are trained. But you can’t train a wild animal with positive reinforcement alone.

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In order to make an animal that could easily kill you obey you, you have to make it fear you.  And the only ways to do this are through pain and deprivation methods such as  bullhooks, whips, starvation and taser-like prods that are used to tame animals that in nature would spend their days hunting and moving freely across the earth.

Global Bans on Wild Animal Circuses

If you live in the United States you may think our country is on trend with global animal welfare issues. The fact that different cities have issued bans on these majestic creatures would make it seem as if change is happening.  The news that SeaWorld will no longer have whales performing or Ringling Brothers will retire its elephants certainly is a sign of progress. Yet if you were to look from a global perspective, you would see that the United States, land of the free, is lagging terribly behind in our views on animals in the entertainment business.

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So while we may fancy ourselves leaders, we should take a look to the other countries that have recognized wild animal acts for what they are and have banned them. Animal Defenders International highlights all of the countries with nationwide bans on wild animals in circuses, which include: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Malta, The Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia – Iran also issued a ban since the last updated list!

Status in the U.S.

Sadly the United States is not even close … yet. Currently, there are only about 50 municipalities with full or partial bans. It’s so important that we work to be a part of the growing movement to end this abusive form of “entertainment” in our country. We must not support events like circuses where intelligent and socially complex animals like elephants are forced to balance on a bucket or shows where whales and dolphins that would normally be swimming hundreds of miles a day are confined to chlorine pools and isolation for years so that we may eat popcorn and clap at their tricks.

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By us actively protesting, signing, petitioning, and educating others that we can help get the United States on track with this global movement.

If there is a circus in town you can be sure there will be some like-minded people speaking out for the animals. Join them! Organizations like Animal Defenders International will even supply you with leaflets to hand out to educate people. Write to your local officials and to your local papers. Everyone thinks one voice doesn’t make a difference but none of the progress that has been made has happened without the collective voice of many individuals. Currently, there is a big debate happening in the city of Pittsburg where the city council is considering an ordinance to ban wild animals in visiting circuses. You can give this effort a little help by signing this petition in support of banning wild animals from circuses in their city. Piece by piece we can make the United States a more compassionate home for animals.

To learn more about better alternatives to wild animal circuses, click here.

Image source: greyloch/Flickr