Here at One Green Planet, we are not oblivious to the allure of circuses. The bright lights, the vibrant colors, the fun costumes, the cotton candy and popcorn, the grandiose big top tent, the opportunity to see exotic animals close up … we get it. We know why moms and dads think that planning a trip to the circus is a fun and exciting event that the whole family can enjoy. However, we are also able to see past the dizzying array of color, the music, and the excitement of it all, and deduce that the “fun and exciting circus” may not be so fun and exciting for the animals forced to perform in it. After all, animals in the circus didn’t just join on a whim, they were dragged there against their own will. And once circus trainers have trapped the animals successfully, they employ a variety of cruel training tactics. This includes chaining animals to walls by their neck in order to get them to stand on two feet. Whipping them into submission and associating mistakes with pain so that they perform their routine perfectly come show time. And of course, starving them if they haven’t performed a routine “well enough.”

There are several organizations working tirelessly to put an end to circuses and all of the cruelty they encompass, and they go about this mission in a multitude of ways. Some organizations will finagle their way into circuses and set up hidden cameras to capture what goes on once the show is over. Others will write detailed articles outlining how dismal the lives of circus animals are compared to the type of life they would be living if they had been left in the wild. And some, choose to share powerful photographs aimed at giving people a better idea of what life in the circus is really like for animals.


Photographer Britta Jaschinski, for example, recently earned critical acclaim for some of the photographs from her collection titled “No Voice No Choice.

Without color, these images capture the true essence of what it is like to be an animal trapped in a circus. This Bornean orangutan belongs in the wild but instead he has been drained of all dignity, forced to dress in ridiculous garb, and trained to act like he is having a grand old time when his face shows that he is clearly miserable. 

These big cats should be patrolling their territory in the wild. Instead, they are forced to stand on stools as men with sticks taunt them. This is what circuses have reduced one of the fiercest species on Earth to. Heartbreaking. 

The silhouette of this bear walking across a tightrope is much less exciting without all of the colors, lights, and music. No bear should be forced to do this.

These images diffuse any argument that these animals are happy. Their body language has only one message: I wish I could be anywhere but here. 



These photos may be in black and white for dramatic effect, but the fear and misery on these animals’ faces is not dramatized, at all. These animals may not have the ability to speak verbally and tell us how depressed they are but these photographs speak for themselves. While there have been some strides made in ending the use of wild animals for circus acts, it is hardly occurring at the pace this issue deserves. The best way to help speed up this process is to boycott all circuses or acts that use animals for entertainment. Click here to learn more about how you can help end the use of animals in circuses.


All image source: Britta Jaschinski