Big Abuse under the Big Top: The Not-So-Glamorous Side of Circuses

by Sammy Caiola

Native Foods Cafe

Summer is here- and that means two whole months of sunny
strolls, vegan food on a stick, sandcastle contests, and all the other images of
“family fun” that are floating around in your melting brain. For a lot of
families, that ”fun” includes a trip to the circus.

Any animal-lover knows that the public gallivanting of
elephants and large cats is not “fun” at all. The animals are not having “fun”
when they perform unnatural tricks for gawking children. They’re not having
“fun” when they’re getting poked
and prodded
by abusive trainers. Just imagine an elephant- the largest land
mammal (and a vegan, by the way!)- being squished into a hot train car for
hours on end. These beauties belong out in the open- not under a tent.  At many circuses, captured elephants are forced to perform painful and unnatural acts. 

Native Foods Café uses this photo courtesy of PETA.


Big-time circus companies like The Ringling Brothers and
Barnum & Bailey’s have a
longstanding history
of abusing animals, and groups like PETA and In
Defense of Animals
have a longstanding history of fighting back. Already
this summer, circus protests have sprouted all over the country-  in
Las Vegas
and Phoenix,
and Los
– coming one after the other like a stampede of angry animal-lovers.

everywhere are protesting the use of animals in circuses. Native Foods Café
uses this photo courtesy of


With any luck, their shouting and sign-holding will help to
push forward some bans on animals in circuses, or at least some more formal
regulation on the treatment of these poor performers. Proof of the progress
that’s possible hit the news in June, when the nation of Colombia managed to
ban animal circuses nationally. Really, it’s an inspiration.

Even if you’re not the megaphone-holding type, one thing you
can do is boycott these abusive corporations and instead take your family to
animal-free circuses like the ones on my list below. There are plenty of ways
to enjoy yourself this summer without supporting the abuse of innocent animals.
 Here’s our list of suggestions:

Animal-free circuses:

  1. Cirque
    du Soleil:
    Rather than exploit animals, this global sensation hires the
    world’s best dancers, acrobats, contortionists and trapeze artists to put on a
    show unlike any you’ve ever seen. Six of cirque’s 19 touring shows currently
    play under a “big top” rather than in an arena, and several are animal-themed
    (for example, Ovo is about the world
    of insects and Varekai is set in a
    whimsical forest). Over 100 million people have seen Cirque du Soleil this
    summer. Why not become one of them?
  2. Circus
    : This traditional traveling circus used to feature plenty of exotic
    animals, but in 2010 changed
    its ways
    and put on its first show with no animals whatsoever. And guess
    what? It’s still really good! The current touring production, aptly named
    “Magikaria”, features jugglers, motorcyclists, trapeze artists and more. It’s a
    family-operated business that performs in smaller venues, so it’s a more
    intimate (and very memorable) experience for kids.
  3. Circus
    All preconceptions about circus art will go out the window when
    you see this quirky original production featuring exclusively female clowns and
    instrumentalists. Drawing on both European circus tradition and American
    vaudeville, this show incorporates accordions and trombones, unicycles and hula
    hoops, and best of all: marionette puppets!


Circus3Cirque du Soleil features acrobats rather than animals.
Native Foods Café uses this image courtesy of


Native Foods Cafe, vegan, vegan food, vegan restaurant, elephants in circuses

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