An historic bill has been introduced to Congress that would end the use of wild and exotic animals in traveling circuses. Known as The Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act (TEAPA) – HR 4525 – has been put forth by Representative Jim Moran (D-VA).
With this bill, the US joins 30 countries around the world that are either discussing a wild animal ban – such as the UK, Brazil, Mexico and others – or have already passed a ban including Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Greece, India, Panama, Singapore, and more. See the full list here.
If you’d like to help make sure it passes, animal welfare organizations are asking you to sign pre-written letters here to your Representatives, urging their support for TEAPA.
Animal Defenders International (ADI) estimates that around 300 wild animals tour the US with circuses. Over the past 23 years, all species of circus animals ADI has studied have displayed the disturbed, stereotypic behaviors that indicate the animal is not coping with its environment and is suffering – going out of its mind.
The following recent examples support the need for this bill:
• Bengal tigers and African lions spending approximately 22 hours a day in cages on the backs of trucks that allow only a few paces to exercise.
• Brown bears caged for 90% of their time in small cages in the back of a trailer. Dressed in costumes, muzzled and forced to ride motorcycles, walk on their front paws and play basketball.
• Elephants routinely chained by two legs for the majority of their time, barely able to take one step forward and one back. Elephants being controlled with bullhooks and stun guns.
• In March, three circus elephants escaped for 45 minutes from a circus in Missouri and rampaged through the parking lot, damaging vehicles. One of the elephants, Viola, had previously escaped from another circus in 2010. Such public safety hazards are frequent in traveling circuses.
• Monkeys living in tiny cages in the back of a camper; forced to wear costumes, collars and leashes and perform tricks.
Animal Defenders International (ADI) President Jan Creamer, said: “Magnificent wild animals have no place in a traveling circus, and with this bill, the US joins almost 30 countries across the world that have taken action to end the suffering. Due to the very nature of the traveling circus, wild animals cannot move around or exercise naturally, they live their whole lives chained or tied up, or in small cages that fit on the back of a truck. Our investigations have also shown that violence to control animals is part of circus culture; animals are beaten, whipped and electric shocked to make them perform tricks. This brutality has no place in modern society.”
In the US, over 40 local ordinances have been passed in 20 states but ADI argues that it is vital the issue is addressed federally, because a circus may train animals in one state but move them between a dozen or more states during the year.
Philanthropist and legendary TV host of The Price Is Right Bob Barker said: “Americans are becoming increasingly aware that circus animals suffer from violent training techniques and severe confinement. Big, wild animals should not be part of the traveling circus and simply put, animal acts in circuses are antiquated and belong in the past, in a time when humans were ignorant about the needs of the other species who share our planet.”
CSI actress Jorja Fox, known to 73 million viewers as CSI’s Sara Sidle, said: “Congress has a responsibility to protect the welfare of animals and ensure public safety. A prohibition on the use of exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses is proportionate, responsible, the least expensive solution to this problem, and long overdue. We call on Congress to bring to an end, once and for all, the abuse and suffering that has been exposed by ADI time and time again.”
ADI also cites the growing popularity of shows with human performers like Cirque de Soliel, as an example of how circuses can adapt and eliminate wild animal acts and at the same time become more relevant to modern audiences.