PETA Describes 'Grueling' Conditions for Circus Animals

Last Edited:

Warning: The above video contains graphic images of animals.

NEW JERSEY — Animals have been a main attraction in circuses for over a century, but that environment isn’t always the healthiest for these creatures.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) explains what the experience is like for many of the captured wildlife-turned-circus-performers and what New Jersey lawmakers are hoping to do for them.

Read: South Jersey Family Fights to Keep Beloved SEPTA K-9

Spending a night under the big top watching animals and people alike performing eye-catching stunts is something many have enjoyed, but for those creatures at center stage, it’s not always a pleasant environment.

Elephants, tigers, zebras, horses, camels and other animals used in circuses are spending their lives caged and chained and taken night after night to perform grueling tricks.

“Elephants, tigers, zebras, horses, camels and other animals used in circuses are spending their lives caged and chained and taken night after night to perform grueling tricks," said Debbie Metzler, senior captive wildlife specialist for the PETA Foundation. "Training always comes with the threat of punishment.”

For years, PETA, which is the largest animals-right organization in the world, has highlighted the downsides of animal use for entertainment.

“Elephants in circuses are forced to do a lot of grueling tricks that are unnatural for them," said Metzler. "They are forced to gives rides and all of this takes a very big toll on their bodies and many of the elephants that are currently on the road with circuses in this country have arthritis or other joint diseases.”

Elephant joints seem to give out when giving children a ride.

“We see this in so many circuses and it’s very indicative that these animals are in pain and they’re not receiving the veterinary care that they need,” said Metzler.

In many cases trainers use bull hooks.

“So, it’s a long stick with a very sharp, pointy hook, which is why they call it a bullhook," said Metzler. "Trainers use this to jab and pull on elephants to get them to do what they want them to do.”

Which she says inflicts pain on the animal.

“People all over the country are learning about the abuse and safety issues with using animals in circuses and they’re taking action,” said Metzler.

But they don’t want circuses to simply not exist.

“We encourage every circus that has animals to just drop the animals," said Metzler. "Move forward with your amazing and incredible acrobats and daredevil acts with human, willing performers.”

In fact, a New Jersey senator has introduced Nosey’s Law. It would put a statewide ban on all traveling animals acts.

“Illinois and New York have already passed bans on elephants traveling acts," said Metzler. "But this would be taking it a step further in a very progressive example that New Jersey could set for the rest of the country.”

Read: Tito's Homemade Vodka Donates $10,000 to 200 Club


SNJ Today is a Southern New Jersey news and information source that is dedicated to providing current stories related specifically to South Jersey.

Do you have community news or events? Email news@snjtoday.com, text SNJNews to 313131, or call 856.825.NEWS (6397).