Should wild animals be kept in the circus?

The E4A Circus Report says: “…declaration that has been signed by over 100 Italian psychologists. This states that attending this kind of performance with animals can hinder the normal development of empathy in children, soliciting joy and amusement responses while looking at animals behaving unnaturally, feeling discomfort and being punished. Similarly, the Committee of Psychology of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) released an opinion declaration stating that circuses with animals are detrimental for children’s educational growth.”

If circus performances with wild animals have no educational value, but perhaps even have a negative effect on children, then why visit the circus with the children?

Numerous animal welfare organisations point out that the animals are exposed to high levels of stress due to constant travel in transport wagons and the constant noise of music and applause. In addition, there is an inappropriate animal husbandry and questionable training methods to teach the animals unnatural behaviours. This is probably the most obvious argument: The animals do something they would never do out of their own will, they behave unnaturally!

Also, again and again new incidents occur. In the mentioned report covering incidents in the EU, Germany is the lonely front runner. Wild animals are also not domestic animals.

In most EU countries wild animals are already banned in circuses, but not in Germany, France, Spain and Lithuania:


The Federal Council of Germany has already spoken out three times in favour of a ban and called on the Federal Government to issue a statutory order. In April 2019, the Conference of Agriculture Ministers voted in favour of a ban. This is where action must finally be taken, but on 23 October 2019 the parties CDU/CSU, SPD and FDP rejected a proposal by Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (Green Party).

Our longing for their nearness

One of the arguments of the animal protectionists is that circus animals are often separated from their mothers at a very early age (prematurely) and raised by hand in order to bind them to humans and train them. In South Africa this has developed into a whole breeding industry. Lions are bred on over 200 farms. Under the label “species protection”, a story is sold to the tourist which in reality often hides a tough business: young animals are separated from their mother a few days after birth and reared by volunteers. These volunteers usually pay several thousand Euro for their farm stay on the assumption that they are doing something to protect the animals. At the same time, the young animals are released as petting animals (cub petting) against payment. On some farms tourists are allowed to visit the young animals every quarter of an hour, which leads to a complete exhaustion of the animals. With older young animals “Lion Walks” are carried out, thus a walk in company of the lions.

What very few people know: These animals are not suitable any more for the reintroduction or release into nature and are shot in the adult age on a large scale on hunting farms! More than 1000 lions are hunted in South Africa every year. An extremely undignified form of hunting is the “Canned Hunting”. In order to give the hunter a guarantee of hunting, the lions used to humans are shot in small enclosures that do not allow the animals to escape. Sometimes the tame animals are also sedated or attracted for the hunt. Almost anyone can hunt there, because a hunting licence is often not required.

But not only in South Africa, worldwide the business with wild animals for tourism florishes, favoured by hunting for the best Instagram photo.


Support true animal sanctuaries where animals that have previously been abused, injured or abandoned are given a permanent home, there is no breeding or touching, animal welfare is a priority, and there is information on where each animal has come from.

Our commitment

  • Together with animal protection organisations and like-minded people, we are running a campaign to ban the keeping of wild animals in circuses. The campaign is explicitly not directed against circuses, because people should continue to be enchanted by people. Roncalli, Cirque du Soleil, Flic Flac and other circuses show performances without animals.
  • We reject the breeding of big cats for profit and shows. With targeted programmes and educational work we advocate for threatened wild animal species and the preservation of their natural habitats.

Sources and comments:

Information on lion breeding in South Africa see also and
In Germany big cats are bred for circus shows.