Throughout China, circuses, traveling shows, and roadside zoos force animals—including bears, monkeys, tigers, lions, dogs, and others—to perform for the public. A PETA Asia investigator visited 10 different circuses and animal training facilities in the city of Suzhou, which alone encompasses more than 300 circuses, and documented animal abuse and suffering on a massive scale.
Bear Cubs Strung Up by the Neck and Forced to Perform Tricks Through Violence and Intimidation
PETA Asia’s investigator documented that bear cubs are chained or tethered to a wall and forced to remain upright, sometimes for hours, in order to train them to walk on their hind legs. If they can’t hold themselves up, they risk choking and hanging themselves.
Forcing bears to stand for prolonged periods of time on their hind legs can cause lifelong physical problems. Jin Yipeng, deputy professor of veterinary medicine at China Agricultural University, notes, “Over the long term that causes permanent joint damage or even necrosis and paralysis. … [T]he animals often acquire these problems in their youth, meaning they suffer for the rest of their lives.”
Some bear cubs were tethered to a hook in the ground by a short rope, making it impossible to move more than a few inches in any direction. Bears were also forced—through violence and intimidation—to jump over objects, walk on their hands, and perform other confusing tricks. As seen in the video, the cubs cried, screamed, grunted, and groaned during training. They repeatedly resisted, but trainers yanked on their neck ropes, dragged them, grabbed them by the fur on their backs, yelled at them, and forced them to continue.
Confined, Deprived, and Maimed
When they weren’t being forced to perform, the bears were confined to cramped, barren cages. They cried out, pawing and biting at the bars, desperate to escape. Some had their snouts pierced with metal rings, which were used to lead them around. Such procedures are frequently performed without any pain medication. A bear, named Doudou by the investigator, was yanked by the rope around her neck and forced to walk on parallel bars. If she stopped or made a mistake, she was hit with a stick.
Big Cats Bullied Into Doing Tricks and Left to Languish in Barren Cages When Not Performing
Lions and tigers were forced to balance on balls, roll around on the ground, and stand on their hind legs. Trainers hit, jabbed, and threatened them with long, heavy metal poles, some of which had a whip on the end.
When not being forced to perform, big cats were confined to barren cages with little space to move around in. Many were forced to wear chains around their necks and could take only a few steps in any direction. Only one of the 10 facilities toured by the investigator had an indoor area in which tigers could find relief from the sweltering heat.
Monkeys Chained by the Neck, Yanked Around, and Confined to Small Cages
The investigator found monkeys grimacing, struggling against neck chains, defecating in fear, and attempting to escape from their handlers. One monkey was chained to a goat’s horns and forced to do a handstand while the goat climbed a ladder and stood on a vase balanced on a high beam. As the monkey struggled to keep his balance, a handler repeatedly jabbed him with a metal pole.
Monkeys were kept in and chained to small, barren cages, in which they thrashed around and paced back and forth, showing signs of intense distress. They had no choice but to eat, drink, sleep, defecate, and urinate all in one small area.
One monkey, named Xiaohau by the investigator, was dragged around by a rope around her neck, causing her to struggle frantically and try to escape.
Other Animals Confined, Neglected, and Seemingly Forgotten
Other animals, such as dogs, llamas, and pigs, were also kept in decrepit conditions and forced to perform. A senior dog, named Laifu by the investigator and too old to perform, was forced to live in a cage 24 hours day and never let out.
This Abuse Is Not Unique to China
Any circus that that uses animals inevitably subjects them to terrifying and cruel training methods as well as barren, cramped living conditions. U.S.-based circuses such as Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, UniverSoul Circus, Jordan World Circus, and others continue to exploit big cats, elephants, and even bears, conducting training sessions behind closed doors with no regulatory agency to hold them accountable.
Terrified and vulnerable baby elephants are restrained by ropes and jabbed with bullhooks at the Ringling Bros. training compound. Surrounded by trainers who threaten them, their spirits are broken.
Bear training in the U.S. looks nearly identical to what we uncovered in China. This bear at a now-defunct roadside zoo in Pennsylvania was forced to walk on his hind legs.
Big cat training elsewhere in the world is also similar to what PETA Asia’s investigator saw in China. Tigers are threatened with whips and forced to perform unnatural, confusing, and even painful tricks.
You Can Help Animals Exploited in the Entertainment Industry
Please pledge never to buy a ticket to a circus or any other event that uses animals. Instead, support acts that focus only on spectacular human talent. Your pledge will let circuses know that animals are not ours to use for entertainment and that you will not support an industry that profits from cruelty. Refuse to attend circuses that use animals, and urge your family members and friends to do the same.