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"Let them enjoy their little day, their humble bliss receive; O, do not lightly take away the life thou canst not give." Thomas Gisborne 1758 – 1846
The idea that it is funny to see wild animals coerced into acting like clumsy humans, or thrilling to see powerful beasts reduced to cringing cowards by a whipcracking trainer is primitive and medieval. It stems from the old idea that we are superior to other species and have the right to hold dominion over them.
Dr Desmond Morris.

Beauty Without Cruelty was on a breakfast show recently discussing the relevance of zoos. (Afrikaans and English)

Want to ride an elephant? It doesn't matter where in the world it's available, whether you travel to India, Thailand or simply upcountry in South Africa - see this clever travel advertisement before you book!


Some say links have been made between feeding sharks / cage diving and an increase of shark attacks on humans. Campaigners are concerned that “chumming” conditions the sharks to get closer to the beach. Cape Town's Shark Concern Group says: "It is not a good idea for humans to taunt an apex predator by throwing food and blood into the water. It is no surprise that human interaction is leading to more attacks."


A shark attack victim in South Africa - one of the main locations for cage diving with sharks - has called for a moratorium on cage shark diving activity and chumming, concerned it has lead to an increase in shark attacks. The community also feels it is an unnecessary activity of which the ecological implications are largely unknown while others agree that the practice shows no respect for these endangered species. State shark researcher Greg Skomal said chumming is highly controversial with some scientists worrying that the sharks could start associating humans with food. That’s an extremely dangerous association when public swimming beaches are just a few miles away.

In mid 2012 the West Australian government took pre-emptivemeasures to ban shark cage diving operations after four fatal shark attacks in the region.

This after heated debate, both in Australia and SA, about the link between attacks and chumming, which is used to attract sharks to the boats. Some local shark cage diving operators blasted the move, while a marine biologist said various studies had not proved a link between chumming and shark attacks.

West Australian Fisheries Minister Norman Moore said he did not want tourist activities set up that would attract sharks and change their normal behaviour.

Research done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) at shark cage diving sites in South Australia had found that chumming kept sharks in an area for longer, but did not prove a link between chumming and attacks on humans.

Norman acknowledged that the study did not determine the long-term effects on shark behaviour, but said he would prefer not to take risks until more was known. Which, as far as we are concerned, is the logical response.

The people who want to go cage diving are most unlikely to be the people killing sharks for various reasons, in the first place, therefore the idea that this activity will help save sharks is dubious.  See this page for information on declining shark populations


Tiger escapes, injures worker (Aug 2014)
Jhb SA
One hears the argument that certain animals are ‘show off’ or love the attention or love to act, or that kindness and positive re-inforcement is used and that the trainers love their animals.

That is not the point.

Beauty Without Cruelty began actions against animal circuses in the Cape in 2009, with a successful demonstration in Durbanville. We have discussed the issue in the papers, on radio, approached the venues over the years and held demonstrations and leafleted, raising the subject one on one with the public. In one instance, when over 1000 leaflets were handed out to people in a morning, only 2 people were in favour of the circus. BWC was complimented and commended by many who gladly took the leaflets, and many others spontaneously commented that they never supported animal circuses. 2013 alone has seen well over over 12 000 leaflets distributed in two months and several BWC demonstrations in both CT and in Jhb. Due to an
expose on Carte Blanche in April, the public outcry has resulted in others also standing up and organising demonstrations.
Given the choice, no animal would choose to live an unnatural life of captivity, regardless of the kindness of the treatment and no animal would choose a life that allows none of their natural behaviour. Certainly animals would not choose to be taken from their families to be obliged to amuse us.

Circus animals spend months travelling in small, bare cages. The stress of  continued confinement as well as the transportation result in long term suffering and a lack of appropriate social interaction, reduction in time spent foraging and the restricted freedom to perform natural behaviours represent stressors for captive animals.

A natural environments cannot be recreated in a circusesdue to the travelling, with  inadequate  acommodation and exercise areas and forced movement, handling by humans,, noise along with the confinement  results in  both short-term as well as long-term behavioural and psychological effects.

Drakenstein Lion Park has this to say:

As an organization that has been involved in the rescue, rehabilitation and lifetime care of a number of rescued circus big cats, it is our opinion that a circus cannot offer an animal like a lion or tiger even the most basic environmental conditions to allow any form of natural behavior. Even though captive bred, circus big cats still require the space and habitat to engage in limited natural behavior. A circus trailer and small exercise cage do not and cannot meet even these most basic needs, there is no space for these animals to even build up to a full speed run, climb or claw at a tree or even get away from each other!

Added to this is the additional stress of being housed in unnatural social groupings in close proximity to other species of big cats. Lions and tigers should not co-habit in the same space and it would be completely unethical if these to species were allowed to cross breed. The sexes of the big cats housed probably add to stress levels as the males would be in constant competition to be dominant and mate (unless of course the females have been surgically sterilized). Circus animals have to perform under unnatural conditions in cramped spaces in a noisy environment. Anyone with a dog will know the effects fireworks have on their pets once a year at Guy Fawkes, circus animals are exposed to amplified music and sound effects every show!

There is much debate about circus training methods and claims that only 'positive reinforcement' is used. It stands to reason however that a degree of dominance is involved in training an apex predator who would under normal circumstance not hesitate to attack a human in confined quarters, one has to question how this type of dominance is achieved over a 250 kilogram predator?

The reality is that any fixed based exhibit (e.g.. a zoo) would not be allowed to keep animals like lions and tigers in such confined quarters, yet for some reason the law allows circuses to do so.

Smiling chimpanzees in adverts are not smiling, it is a fear grin. That is how they express fear. It  has been well documented that Chimpanzees only perform under duress, hence the  'surprising' sudden attacks by these 'tame and loving animals' who turn on trainers or actors. Lions and other wild animals do not belong in circuses. Elephants, particularly, suffer terribly from emotional distress and joint and feet pain from spending hours and hours chained and left standing on hard ground instead of travelling many kilometres every day in the wild. Large cats spend mopst of their lives in cages that would never be considered acceptable in a zoo. These animals can provide no educational value despite the arguments to the contrary; what can you possibly learn from an animal in a cage or a circus ring? With documentaries and the plethora of visual information available today a child can learn far more than by seeing a sad replica of what should be a magnificent proud animal in their own habitat.
Putting animals in human clothing is pathetic at best, and what does it say about those of us who find this cruel, human imitation amusing? (this does not include the necessary clothing for little dogs who may otherwise suffer the cold)
We can say with certainty that we agree and know that slavery was wrong, even though it is maintained that some of these slaves were genuinely cared for by their 'owners' and were kindly treated. There were generations of people who knew no other life. Did that however mean it was acceptable?
Animals are forced into entertainment industries by being trapped, torn from their mothers or born into entertainment slavery. This includes television advertisements, magazine shoots, films, circuses or canned hunting; there is, for some at least, ‘entertainment’ value to be had in hunting, as there is in rodeos, tag fishing, bullfights and other entertainments that involve the inclusion of animals. Horse and dog racing does not benefit horses and dogs; if people wish to gamble, let them indulge their need in human or car races instead.

 There are those sensitive to the use of the words animal slavery, as they feel that that Man has been reduced, in this example, to that of animals. Far from it. The similarity lies in the forced use and abuse of those who had and still have, no voice, regardless of their form.  The acceptance of violence, abuse and enslavement toward some means the acceptance of violence, abuse and enslavement toward all. And surely if one has been at the receiving end of abuse one would be in the forefront of those fighting this, regardless of the victims?

See our page on
dog racing 
Greyhound kept in an inadequate  cage
For us to continue to use animals to entertain us when we know they have very complex lives, emotional needs and social behaviours, especially when we have so many technologies and non animal amusements to keep us occupied is our shame.


As of the update on 19 Jan 2015

Austria: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
Belgium: Nationwide ban on the use of most wild animals in circuses (Parrots and camel are classed as domestic)

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Nationwide ban on all animals in circuses
Croatia: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
Czech Republic: Nationwide ban on the use of certain species in circuses.
Cyprus: Nationwide ban on all animals in circuses
Denmark: Nationwide ban on the use of certain species in circuses.
Estonia: Nationwide ban on the use of wild-born animals in circuses.
Finland: Nationwide ban on the use of certain species in circuses.
Greece: Nationwide ban on all animals in circuses
Hungary: Nationwide ban on the use of wild caught animals in circuses, the purchase and training of elephants and primates for circus performances and the purchase, training and use of CITES (Appendix 1) listed species in circuses.
Ireland: Local bans on the use of animals in circuses in Drogheda, Fingal, Galway City, Kildare, Monaghan, Moyle, South Dublin and Waterford
Malta:Nationwide ban on all animals for performances, exhibitions, shows or training for the circus
The Netherlands Nationwide ban on the use and transport of animals in circuses, with exemptions for certain, mostly domestic, species
Norway Local ban on wild or exotic animal shows in Tromsø municipality
Poland: Nationwide ban on the use of wild-born animals in circuses.
Portugal: Nationwide ban restricting the use of great apes in circuses and the acquisition and breeding of CITES listed species.
Slovenia: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses
Spain: Local bans on the use of wild animals in circuses in several towns including Barcelona.
Sweden: Nationwide ban on the use of certain species in circuses.
UK: Over 200 local authorities have bans on animal circuses (more than two thirds of these ban all performing animals, the remainder ban just wild animals). A Government commitment to ban the use of wild animals in circuses - this is yet to be enacted.
USA: 49 partial or full bans on circus animals in municipalities in the US, in 22 states.
Canada: Local bans on the use of animals in circuses in 28 municipal jurisdictions.
Argentina: Local bans on the use of wild animals in circuses in over 20 cities including a ban in the city of Buenos Aires.
Bolivia: Nationwide ban on the use of wild and domestic animals in circuses.
Brazil: Local bans on the use of wild and domestic animals in circuses in the districts of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Pernambuco, Paraiba, Rio Grande do Sul, Espiritu Santo, Mato Grosso do Sul, Alagoas and a number of bans in cities within another four Brazilian states.
Chile: Local bans on the use of wild and domestic animals in circuses in the city of Santiago.
Colombia: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses; Local ban on the use of animals in circuses in the capital, Bogota.
Costa Rica: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
Ecuador: Nationwide ban on the use of native wild animals; restrictions on the use of exotic animals; ban on the import of both native and exotic wild animals with circuses
El Salvador: Nationwide ban on the “Income, use or abuse of wildlife species in all kinds of entertainment"
Mexico:Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses
Panama:Nationwide ban prohibiting “entry of wild animals for use in static and travelling circuses and similar shows”
Paraguay: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
Peru: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses as well as a local ban on all animals in Magdalena del Mar.
Australia: Local bans on the use of animals in circuses in several towns including Hobsons Bay, Surf Coast Shire, Parramata and Lismore.
India: Nationwide ban on the use of certain species in circuses.
Israel: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
Singapore: Nationwide ban on the use of wild animals in circuses.
Taiwan: Nationwide prohibition on the import or export of protected wildlife for circuses.

(source IDA)

Humans are physically capable of extremely challenging and dangerous escapades and can induce an open eyed wonder of us all at, negating the need for pitiful offerings of human emulation by other earthlings.This mindset of continually wanting to show that we dominate and are stronger smacks of serious insecurity issues on our part and belongs in the dark ages. There is no place for institutionalized cruelty in the form of performing animals in the 21st Century. It is time we evolved.


Most people don't consider having their photo taken with a cute cub or having a cuddle as harmful. The truth is that they are the product of factory farming where the cubs are removed so that the mother can produce another litter in six months time, as opposed to two years time, if she had the opportunity to raise her own offspring. These factory farmed cubs are often kept in unsuitable cages with little regard for their social requirements. What happens to these human imprinted animals when they have outgrown their cute factor? They cannot be rehabilitated or sold to game reserves. Visit for more information.

How educational are petting zoos?  What children really learn when they see animals in petting zoos is how frightened animals behave in captivity and that it is acceptable for them to be stressed for entertainment.  Caged animals, even traditionally domesticated animals like goats, pigs, donkeys, and sheep, suffer from boredom and disorientation. Pigs confined to small spaces and deprived of the company of other pigs can become destructive and dangerous. Separated from normal social groups and natural habitat, the stress of captivity is heightened by unusual noises, closeness to animals of other species, and the lack of shelter where animals can avoid contact with humans if they choose.

Petting zoo operators perpetually breed or purchase animals so that they will have an endless supply of “cute babies" to draw crowds. These babies are prematurely removed from their mothers, denying them the natural socialization process needed for normal development and then these frightened, helpless babies are mauled by excited for our entertainment. Older animals are simply disposed of when they have exhausted their usefulness.  Baby animals bring in visitors and money, but this incentive to breed new baby animals leads to overpopulation. Surplus animals are sold not only to other zoos, but also to circuses, canned hunting facilities, and even for slaughter.

The vast majority of captive breeding programs do not release animals back into the wild. The offspring are forever part of the chain of zoos, circuses, petting zoos, and exotic pet trade that buy, sell and barter animals among themselves and exploit animals.
Removing individuals from the wild will further endanger the wild population, because the remaining individuals will be less genetically diverse and will have more difficulty finding mates.

If people want to see wild animals in real life, they can observe wildlife in the wild or visit a sanctuary. A true sanctuary does not buy, sell, or breed animals, but takes in unwanted exotic pets, surplus animals from zoos or injured wildlife who can no longer survive in the wild.

Children who visit petting zoos often bring home much more than their parents bargained for as petting zoos can infect children with potentially lethal bacteria.

There is something inherently wrong with taking children to pet domestic and 'farm' animals, and then feeding them some of those same animals later!


In an age of outstanding computer generated imaging, there is no excuse for continuing to allow humans to profit from the unhappiness, misery, suffering and abuse of animals for our entertainment. CGI or computer generated imaging has already given us such incredible realism in films like Legend of the Guardians, the tale of Owls, for example, and most recently, Life of Pi. Although a tiger was used to get the initial movement required for CGI this drastically reduces the human / tiger interaction and will surely be stored for re-use.


  • Don’t support circuses that have any animal acts. Tell them why.
  • Support human act circuses.
  •  Let advertisers and product suppliers know you do not approve of animals in their adverts
  • Your membership fees allows us to continue our day to day running, research and education
  • Attend animal protests in your area
  • Don't support establishments that offer animal / human interaction (wild cubs)
  • Tell friends and family that you do not support the use of animals in entertainment and tell them why
  • Sign valid petitions NOTE Long lists of names on an e-mail is a waste of time and energy. Only those that want a verifiable street and e-mail address will be valid.
LIST OF INTERNATIONAL ANIMAL FREE CIRCUSES- here in South Africa we have the South African Circus and the Zip Zap Circus

Bindlestiff Family Cirkus
Circus Garden
Circus Italiano
Circus Millennia
Circus Oz
Circus Smirkus
Cirque du Soleil
Cirque Eloize
Cirque Ingenieux
Cloud Seeding Circus
Earth Circus
Fern Street Circus
Lazer Vaudeville
Les Productions Cirque Éos inc.
Little Russian Circus
Mexican International Circus
Moscow State Circus
Neil Goldberg’s Cirque
The New Pickle Circus
New Shanghai Circus
Russian American Kids Circus
Gamma Phi Circus
The Great All-American Youth Circus
Gregangelo & Velocity Circus Troupe
Hiccup Circus
The Flying High Circus
Circus Ethiopia
Circus Zapparelli
Cirque Lili
No Fit State Circus
Swamp Circus

Zip Zap Circus School
Jan Smuts Street, Cape Town 8001
021 421 8622alt021 421 8622

South African Circus
Office address; 3 Gothic Road, Lansdowne, 7780, Cape Town, South Africa
Tel (021) 692 4287alt(021) 692 4287 Tel/Fax (021) 692 1731 email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Due to public demand and their decision, they stopped  touring with wild animals in their circus almost 16 years ago.  We specialize in people skills and have had great success with our new age circus where we have taken the sawdust ring and transformed it into a waterway with our show called the Pirate Experience. “Circus taken up a notch or two”.  Boswell Wilkie Circus has no connection with any other circus travelling South Africa at present.