Unbearable – Hell on wheels for bears touring the U.S.
For up to an hour a day, they are dressed up in clothes, have muzzles strapped around their mouths and are made to dance and perform demeaning tricks – around 90% of their time is spent caged in tiny cells in a prison truck. This is life for a group of bears, owned and trained by Texas-based James and Tepa Hall, currently touring the U.S. as ‘Bear Mountain’, ‘Hall’s Bears’ or ‘Castle’s Bears’, in circuses and at county fairs.
Today Animal Defenders International (ADI) released video shot inside the bear transporter, which shows a bear desperately circling a small steel cage measuring about 31/2 feet wide, by 6ft deep and about 8ft high. The steel floor of this barren cage is covered in just a scattering of sawdust.
Click here to watch the video
ADI investigators monitored the day to day life of the bears at circuses and county shows in five states – South Carolina, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois and Iowa – and found that the bears spend around 90% of their time shut in their cages inside a trailer. Their time outside these miserable prison cells generally averages just 10 minutes a day on weekdays and 20 minutes on weekends.
Jan Creamer, President of ADI: “The performance looks like something out of the middle ages and the way these animals are forced to live is like a medieval dungeon. These are some of the worst living conditions we have witnessed for circus animals. These poor bears, which are so intelligent and naturally inquisitive, are being stored for almost their entire time in what are little more than metal boxes.”
The bears – Syrian bears Giza, Zuzu and Nemo, and European brown bears Tutter and Nanook – are muzzled and led out on leashes for the performances. In an unnatural and demeaning display these intelligent and mighty animals are forced to walk on their hind legs, do handstands, dance, balance on a ball, ride a bicycle and a motorcycle.
After their sad outing they are led back to the 24-foot long trailer and caged again.
The windows of the trailer are approximately 10-11 ft. off the ground, covered in thick steel mesh, high above the bears’ heads so there is no view for them to look out. During the ADI observations, daytime temperatures ranged from the 80s to the low 90s. The lights are kept on until approximately 1am and fans blow noisily.
For the Bear Mountain stage shows, the bears were transferred to cages at the back of the stage for short periods of time – but still spent most of the day in their cages inside the trailer.
For such intelligent animals, this is a tortuous way to live. Bear species are known for their intelligence and inquisitive nature, for their desire to explore great distances each day and their enjoyment of anything new and interesting. In zoos, bears have been found to suffer the adverse effects of captivity.
Jan Creamer: “The circus bears are suffering terribly and have been deprived of almost everything that is natural to them. It is urgent that federal measures are introduced to end the use of wild animals in traveling shows. As more and more countries around the world prohibit traveling exhibitions like this, the United States is steadily being left behind.”
About Animal Defenders International
With offices in Los Angeles, London and Bogota, ADI campaigns across the globe on animals in entertainment, providing technical advice to governments, securing progressive animal protection legislation, drafting regulations and rescuing animals in distress. ADI has a worldwide reputation for providing video and photographic evidence exposing behind-the-scenes suffering in the industry and supporting this evidence with scientific research on captive wildlife and transport. ADI rescues animals and educates the public.
Background – worldwide movement to end use of wild animals in traveling shows
The evidence that the suffering caused to wild animals by the constant travel, severe restrictions on movement and unnatural lifestyle has prompted authorities and governments around the world to end their use.
In the United States, 38 cities/counties in 18 states have taken action to restrict wild animals from traveling circuses. And around the world, hundreds of local ordinances are in place, including in the UK, Europe, and South America.
National restrictions on the use of wild animals, or selected species/uses have been adopted in over 20 countries including: Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Malta, Slovakia, Sweden, Portugal, Taiwan, Singapore, Bolivia, Peru, Costa Rica, India, Israel and others. Similar laws are being discussed in: the United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, and Norway.
Whether it is a traveling circus, or travel from county show to county show, the confinement for the animals is the same:
- Traveling shows cannot meet the physical, psychological or behavioral needs of wild animals, due to severe confinement, physical and social deprivation, long periods of time in transporters, with brutal control methods and physical violence.
- The mental suffering caused by the environmental and social deprivation drives many of these animals out of their minds and this can be seen in the abnormal, stereotypic, repetitive behaviors observed in the animals.
- Keeping stressed, large and dangerous wild animals close to the public in lightweight, temporary enclosures has proven disastrous. Workers and members of the public have been killed and maimed; lions, tigers and elephants have all escaped.
- Because of the traveling nature of the circus, animal welfare officers have difficulties with protecting the animals, inspections and associated time and costs. This justifies a restriction, for the protection of the animals and the public.
- It is a myth that wild animals are trained with kindness and reward; the tools of the trade include stun guns and other electric prods, metal bars, whips, bullhooks (a heavy bar with a sharpened point and hook), deprivation of food and water and intimidation.
- It is estimated that around 12% of Asian and 2% of African elephants in North America have tuberculosis (TB), a disease transmissible from elephants to humans.
- Circuses must change with the times. Human only circuses are thriving. Cirque du Soleil now has 19 shows in 271 cities, generating an estimated $810 million a year. Whereas the wild animal traveling show, Piccadilly Circus, recently canceled performances across Southern California due to poor ticket sales.
- Circus workers perform multiple roles; staff can be retrained, so jobs are not lost. Circus Vargas removed their animal acts and the business continues. Surveys have shown that a decline in animal circuses can be matched by a rise in circuses with human performers.