(CIRCUS ANIMALS) Though many circuses no longer use exotic animals in their acts, several still incorporate domestic animals and force them to perform. Duke University student Erica Martin questions the ethics of “pro-animal” circuses like Big Apple Circus, claiming the New York City-based circus enforces a paradigm of human exceptionalism and animal dominance.With circus animals still being encaged, chained, leashed, and whipped, Martin urges people to think twice about what kind of circus they choose to attend from now on. Read on to learn more about Big Apple Circus and judge for yourself. — Global Animal
Jennifer Vidbel fills the ring with a playful chorus line of 12 white mini-horses in Dance On!, the 33rd seasonal show of the Big Apple Circus. Photo Credit: Bertrand Guay, Big Apple Circus

“New York’s Big Apple Circus,” Erica Martin

Holiday season is here, so why not embrace familial sentiments by embarking on a fun trip to a circus, like New York’s Big Apple Circus? Second guessing the thought? You should be.

The problem is pro-animal circuses like the Big Apple Circus are simply  another display of human exceptionalism and dominance over animals. Though the use of exotic animals in circuses is no longer “the rave,” domestic animals, like dogs, are still being manipulated to perform unnatural tasks to please and entertain man—a dog that jumps through hoops while dressed in a tutu is no less unnatural than a tiger standing on its hind legs, or a chimp riding a horse.

These insidious circuses draw you in with their alluring entertainment, but this phenomenon enforces the paradigm that people are superior to animals by creating a relationship where humans are the master and animals their slaves. Though trainers may treat their animals well, these animals are not free to leave their predicaments and are forced to be dependent on human care.

Animals are often forced to do tricks and performances through manipulation or coercion simply for human purposes. As long as such animals are encaged, chained, leased, or whipped, the existence of animal circuses is a form of animal slavery.

Photo Credit: Blueprints (http://blog.doe.org/)

Furthermore, attending pro-animal circuses teaches human dominance by showing children and adolescents that humans have the right to treat animals as they deem fit. Though children may admire the animals for their beauty and talent, they are unconsciously being taught that they too can command animals to perform tasks and train them to be obedient. Children may be more inclined to unintentionally abuse animals and form a perception in which dominion over animals is the norm, thus continuing the cycle.

In a day and age when humans reign over most facets of life, should we further enforce human superiority when our focus should be on efforts that mitigate the gap between man and nature? The dichotomy between human and animals in industries like pro-animal circuses will only pull us further away from existing within the eco-system; man will simply continue to operate above nature.

Long story short—if you’re deciding to take a great family trip to a circus show during this holiday season, think twice about the type of circus you go to, because nothing starts the holidays better than enjoying great family time with the right type of family entertainment.




  1. This blog post is very odd. Animals are inferior to humans and we need to respect that position. Big Apple Circus is by far the most transparent with regards to the care and treatment of their animals. They are very humane. And bringing a child to a circus does not teach them to disrespect animals. This article has no basis or foundation for any of the opinions of the author, who obviously has no children or a general understanding of animals or their behaviors. What next, do you want equality of animals so they can vote? Please stop trying to humanize animals. That is abusive and causes them to become unhappy. Especially dogs they are pack animals, not humans.

  2. With that type of logic, don't confine your dog to a fenced in backyard…let him roam the streets and be free! Don't teach your dog to walk on a leash…don't train your cat to use a litter box…and don't even think about training a horse so you can ride it! As youth chairman for the Circus Fans Association, I encourage familys to take there kids to live circus performances. This includes circuses with exotic animals, domestic animals, and no animals.