The United States’ oldest circus closed its doors this week after nearly 150 years of business. Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey announced their decision to close earlier this summer, citing two factors as the main reasons for declining ticket sales: the attention span and concerns of the community regarding animal welfare.

Since the 1860s, traveling circuses in Australia have existed. It is estimated that there are still around 12 of them operating today. Several of these traveling circuses used elephants for many years. Today, only two still use exotic animals to perform. Stardust Circus and Lennon Bros both keep lions, rhesus monkeys, and macaques for their performances. The macaques are either from zoos or have been bred by the circus. However, the lions were produced for many generations in captivity.

Despite the fact that circuses have improved in conditions over the past 50 years, exotic animals still pose a welfare problem. Even the best training, housing, or treatment methods cannot solve these problems.

Circuses are a problem because of their constant travel, confinement, and inability to meet social, behavioral, and physiological needs.

There are no national standards in Australia for the welfare of circus animals. Some states have legal or code of practice requirements. However, these are more focused on protecting animals against cruelty than promoting animal welfare.

Macaques in the wild live in large groups. Interacting with trainers may help reduce their frustration and boredom, but it is no substitute for socializing in a natural environment.

Even with constant interaction with their trainers, circus lions often display severe signs of frustration and boredom when kept in a restricted environment.
Remember that these animals are not domestic; they’re wild animals in captivity. The RSPCA is of the opinion that no circus, no matter how well-managed, can provide a suitable environment for wild animals.

The closure of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey is part of a global trend to ban the use of wild animal circuses. Forty-five countries have imposed national or local restrictions, citing concerns about animal welfare as the primary reason.

Many local councils in Australia have banned circuses that feature exotic animals and, in some cases, circuses that include any animal from performing at council parks. Please write to your local council and let them know about the issue. If the local community does not take a strong stand against this, the circuses will continue breeding and training wild animals solely for performance.


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