Oakland Zoo has worked hard over the years to end the performance of animals in circuses. By their very nature, circuses are unable to meet the needs of the species, including the space to move freely, enriched physical and social environments, and the opportunity to engage in species-typical behaviors. Additionally, many of the species, like big cats, bears, and elephants are dangerous and are worked in free-contact (no protective barrier), punishment-based methods need to be used to train the animals and ensure they perform consistently, which induce pain and fear on a daily basis.
This is why CSC-Oakland Zoo and 18 other animal advocacy and welfare organizations signed onto support for California’s SB 313, Circus Cruelty Prevention Act. Public attitudes toward the use of wild animals in entertainment are quickly changing in the U.S. and around the world. In 2017 Illinois and New York Stated banned the use of elephants in traveling shows, and New York City prohibited the use of all wild animals in circuses. That same year, we spoke out with others at Oakland City Hall for the city to ban the use of bull hooks and other instruments of pain-based training in the City of Oakland, and soon after Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus shut down after 146 years in operation. In 2018 New Jersey banned the use of wild animals in traveling acts and Hawaii passed permit legislation that prohibits the same. Countries around the world have passed similar laws and more are expected in the future.
California led the way in the protection of wild animals used in entertainment by prohibiting the use of elephant bull hooks, and is doing so again! SB 313 was just heard by committee yesterday, and will have enough votes to have it move forward to the State Senate.
We’re following this bill, as well as some other federal bills aimed at protecting big cats and primates, and will soon inform how you can help! Please know that the process leading to CSC’s support for legislations includes reading the bill’s language and working with AZA, SSP’s, as well as PETA, HSUS, and others to ensure the aims of the bill are met without collateral damage to respected facilities and accredited zoos and sanctuaries. SB 313, in particular, went through several language revisions to ensure animal education organizations were not impacted with the bill’s intent to ban circuses.