Animal Entertainment: Why Is Using Animals for Entertainment Wrong? (2022)

If you click through photos and videos of animals doing funny, poignant, or strange things on social media, you are enjoying animals on display for your entertainment, and the videos may cause you to wonder what is left out of the frame. Who is behind the camera? What were the animals’ conditions before and after the recording? Asking these types of questions is practicing media literacy—questioning the messages in the websites we read and the shows we watch.

One tool for questioning the depiction of animals is keeping in mind that people involved in animal protection encourage us to be cautious when supporting the use of nonhuman animals in videos, rodeos, circuses, zoos, and other forms of entertainment. Using animals for entertainment is a classic example of behavior resulting from the hierarchy that humans developed as they learned to dominate other animals. This hierarchy is the same one that results in vast numbers of animals being killed through animal agriculture, medical experimentation, and breeding operations. This hierarchy has historically also been combined with and worked alongside those used to otherize humans based on their race, gender, sexuality, disability status, and wealth. Yet there are alternatives to roadside zoos, animal parks, petting zoos, and shoving a four-hooved herbivore into yet another Christmas display, thanks to innovation in technology and the performing arts.

What Is Using Animals for Entertainment?

Using animals for entertainment means that the animals are being taken advantage of, suffering, and even dying, for the amusement and pleasure of onlookers. The animals involved do not have a choice in their vocation as entertainers, and frequently bear emotional and physical wounds or are killed on the job. Examples of when people use animals for entertainment include zoos and aquariums, marine mammal parks, rodeos and bull riding, bullfighting, and the use of trained animals in circuses, films and shows.

The History of Animals in Entertainment: When Were Animals First Used for Entertainment?

In Matthieu Ricard’s book “A Plea for the Animals” he describes the use of animals for human entertainment as far back as the Mesopotamian empires, by the Kings of Babylon and Assyria. Wild animals were confined in enclosures and hunted by humans in chariots, with the help of packs of dogs.

Should Animals Be Used for the Purpose of Entertainment?

Depending on who you ask, you’ll get different answers to the question of whether animals should be used in zoos, rodeos, circuses, and other forms of entertainment. From the perspective of people speaking up for the protection of animals, the answer is usually “no.” Philosopher Peter Singer, in his landmark animal rights book “Animal Liberation,” urges readers to make major changes in how they treat animals in “areas of entertainment like circuses, rodeos, and zoos.”

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Singer chose to focus on examples of killing animals for meat and medical experimentation to make a case against speciesism—the idea that one animal species is more important than any other. But he writes that animals suffer just as much when humans are “tormenting them to make them learn tricks for circuses and tormenting them to make them entertain the audiences at rodeos.”

Which Animals Are Used in Entertainment and Why?

People pay to watch shows and events featuring all types of animals. Iconic animals used in circuses can be found on boxes of animal crackers: a zebra, elephant, lion, giraffe, and gorilla. Meanwhile, famous marine mammal parks have historically featured trained dolphins and orcas in their advertising. Zoo animals can be almost any type of animal but tend to include large wild animals, such as pandas, hippos, koalas, primates, giraffes, big cats, birds, zebras, camels, snakes, reptiles, and more. In rodeos and bullfighting, horses and cows are the primary objects of entertainment. Meanwhile, the roster of animal actors in the film industry have included bears, dogs, monkeys, chimpanzees, dolphins, a whale, equines, cats, crows, farmed animals, and the casts of the Dr. Dolittle series.

What’s Wrong With Circuses?

Circuses have historically left audiences awestruck by making elephants march in a line using one’s trunk to hold another’s tail, or having a lion tamer stick his head in a big cat’s mouth. Yet as Ricard explains, the elegance of the elephants’ performances are an illusion enabled by a sharp iron hook disguised as a wand with flowers, “that will quickly come jabbing into the pachyderm’s ear at the least sign of disobedience.” Former circus trainers like Vladimir Deriabkine have testified that the pleasure that animals give to circus audiences around the world is the result of training practices based on animal cruelty and violence. Deriabkine once saw a trainer who killed a bear for refusing to perform his number. Iconic animals in circuses have also included tigers, bears, lemurs, chimpanzees, horses, and birds such as parrots, doves, peacocks, and cockatoos.

Is Seaworld Really That Bad?

Writer and animal advocate Krista Kihlander explains that attractions like SeaWorld seem like perfect places “to bring children for them to learn about animals.” SeaWorld fostered Kihlander’s love for orcas: “I was in awe of their majesty, and utterly infatuated with their sheer size.” Yet in these parks, dolphins and orcas are deprived of their natural habitat, freedom, and social relations, and they ultimately experience high rates of mortality. In their natural environments, they love to swim 60 to 90 miles per day.

What About Zoos?

The appeal of zoos is similar to why people enjoy SeaWorld. Curious families can learn about animals by seeing them alive but caged, so as not to pose any threat. In the past, zoos have even held human exhibits—of melanated, colonized people kept behind bars for public viewing by lighter-skinned humans. That zoos held humans behind bars is an explicit historical example of the racialized hierarchy of humans over nonhumans. Zoos are also historically responsible for supporting illicit animal trade that has resulted in “10 deaths for every animal that is finally exhibited,” due to the harms to animals from transport and the difficulty of adapting to their new environment, Ricard writes.

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Rodeos and Bull Riding

A rodeo is a festive arena where people watch each other ride bucking horses and cows (technically speaking, bulls). The horses and cows are rebelling against their treatment. They are normally calm and docile, and when there is space to do so they are more likely to flee situations that bother them than fight back. In rodeo activities such as bull riding, the frightened animal flails their spine and torso vertically and sideways, jumping and kicking, trying to remove sources of pain and irritation imposed on them by the show organizers.

According to the ALDF website, rodeos use electric prods, metal spurs, and bucking straps to cause intense pain, the bucking straps burning the cow’s “abdomen and groin area.” The bucking and extreme bodily gesticulation “can lead to back and leg injuries.”

Bullfighting

The corrida is a festival focused on the exhilarating “twists and turns” of a rigged fight between a torero (usually a man) and a bull, in which the bull is wounded and ultimately dies, explains Matthieu Ricard in his book “A Plea for the Animals.” An estimated 180,000 to 250,000 bulls die in bullfights worldwide, according to CAS International and The Humane Society International, respectively, but more are likely to have been killed outside of the arena.

The honor of killing the bull is usually cloaked in values like courage in meeting an adversary head-on. However, cows are herbivores who are hard to provoke, and who would more likely run away from a predator in nature than try to defend themselves as they do when repeatedly attacked in the confines of an arena.

Films and Television

In the end title credits of a movie, you may have seen a statement that read “no animals were harmed in the making of this film.” The reason this certification is needed is that animal abuse was rampant in the early 20th century during the start of the film industry. Early television shows and films have historically used animal actors such as dogs, cats, sheep, pigs, horses, bears, elephants, donkeys, monkeys, birds, and even a lion. Modern films and shows continue to use animals, whose welfare continues to be compromised in the hands of animal suppliers. PETA reports that animals who are deemed useless as actors are discarded at “seedy roadside zoos and substandard facilities” that fail to provide proper food and medical care to the retired animals.

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Why Is Animal Entertainment Wrong?

Animals are sensitive species with natural habitats that are hard to replicate and that are necessary to make them happy. Trying to get them to do things for the benefit of human entertainment turns them into unwilling workers in ways that typically rely on cruelty and abuse.

Animal Cruelty in Entertainment

The definition of animal cruelty is as simple as causing harm to an animal. It can be purposeful or the result of neglect. One of the cruelest forms of entertainment at a rodeo is calf roping. In this activity, three-month-old cows “are chased at high speed, roped around the neck, dragged to a sudden stop with the rope choking their neck, then thrown to the ground; a horrific experience causing stress, fear, pain and sometimes injury,” according to SAFE’s website.

Animal Abuse in the Entertainment Industry

Animal abuse, like animal cruelty, is when an animal is harmed, whether the act is intentional or simply the result of failing to do something. The abuse of animals in the entertainment industry is an ongoing source of suffering, according to animal rights activists. An animal supplier for shows on the USA Network, Disney+, AMC, and Netflix, was keeping “more than a dozen dogs kept in kennels stacked on top of one another in a garage, animals crammed into closets, and an alligator […] held in a small, filthy outdoor pit,” reported Katherine Sullivan for PETA in 2020.

Restriction of Natural Behavior and Its Consequences

Consistent across all use of animals in entertainment is the inability of animals to display their natural behavior because of how they are confined. In 1974 Phillipe Diolé wrote a series of articles condemning zoos, quoted by Ricard: “an animal loses the space where his complex life was organized: its behavior is thrown off, its state of mind is shaken. There is no other outcome for it than madness,” resulting in zoo captives who are, with few exceptions, mentally ill.

What Are Animal Entertainment Alternatives?

In the case of using animals for the purposes of entertainment, modern technology can provide powerful alternatives to the real thing. Choosing to go with forms of animal-friendly entertainment can open doors to new types of shows as well as opportunities for self-reflection.

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Holograms

Families who want to teach children to have empathy for the plight of circus animals while also celebrating them on display may enjoy holographic shows. Circus Roncalli has used laser beams to create “incredibly realistic three-dimensional illusions” of “performing elephants, horses, and fish without involving real animals,” according to Hannah McKay for Sentient Media.

Animatronics

Another festive way to replicate the animal experience without causing harm by exhibiting them is to use robots. McKay reported that The Seasonal Group developed “interactive, programmable, life-size animatronic reindeer,” and that Edge Innovations has created a realistic animatronic dolphin. Delle, the robotic dolphin, swims, performs tricks and interacts with people.

Cirque Du Soleil

Human circuses display the acrobatic skills of performance artists without the use of nonhuman animals. The National Humane Education Society lists Cirque du Soleil, The New Pickle Family Circus, and Circus Oz as examples of circuses free of nonhuman animals.

Safari-Style Zoos

Among people who speak up to protect animals from abuse and cruelty, zoos are less preferred than sanctuaries, reserves, and national parks. While there has been reform in zoos towards wildlife conservation, they still trouble us with the question Ricard poses, “Is it moral to capture an animal and imprison it?”

Animal Entertainment Cruelty Facts

  • Animal protection advocates warn against luxurious dolphinariums that advertise “dolphin therapy.” Dolphins kept in captivity are controlled through food restriction and have become agitated and aggressive towards humans in swim programs.
  • Was the last film you streamed certified humane? You can check out the American Humane database at https://humanehollywood.org to find out if the last film you watched was certified by them for following animal welfare standards.
  • SeaWorld and other marine mammal parks have come under fire from animal advocates and filmmakers over the last decade, with campaigns and movies such as Blackfish and The Cove.

How Can We Help?

Maintaining compassion for humans as well as nonhuman animals is key to effective advocacy and communication. In an interview with lauren Ornelas of the Food Empowerment Project, long-time activist Sukie recommends that, in the face of an angry person who has become ugly toward you, remember “You are not going to change that person’s mind, but if others see you being angry and ugly, they get turned off and you won’t reach them. If we claim to be compassionate to animals, we need to be compassionate to human animals. Most of them are not aware of all the cruelty involved, and the reason you are there is to sow the seeds.”

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What’s Next

Forms of entertainment that abuse animals continue to exist, but they are also being challenged by animal rights activists, proponents of animal welfare, legislators, filmmakers, and former animal trainers. These cultural practices have proven to be highly influenced by public campaigns that are the result of organized, like-minded people who encourage each other to subvert the human-animal divide.

FAQs

Animal Entertainment: Why Is Using Animals for Entertainment Wrong? ›

The use of animals to entertain human beings is wrong from the welfare point of view because: it removes animals from their natural habitat and social structure. it involves the animal in performances that are foreign to their natural behaviour. it may involve cruelty during the show (e.g. bullfighting, rodeos)

Is it acceptable to use animals for entertainment? ›

The Animal Protection Institute (and WRR) strongly opposes the use of animals in all entertainment venues. Animals are not novelties; they have their own needs, interests, and rights — including the right to engage in their natural behaviors in their natural environment.

Why are animals used for entertainment? ›

Using animals for entertainment means that the animals are being taken advantage of, suffering, and even dying, for the amusement and pleasure of onlookers. The animals involved do not have a choice in their vocation as entertainers, and frequently bear emotional and physical wounds or are killed on the job.

Do you agree or disagree that the use of animals in entertainment should be banned? ›

Using animals is unethical as people are forcing animals to do tricks against their own will. An example would be that in some circus and other shows, trainers use whips and other torture devices to make the animals learn tricks. Treating animals that way is cruel and unethical and certainly inhumane.

What are the effects on animals in entertainment? ›

Travel, confinement, and being forced to perform tricks deprive wild animals of anything that might satisfy their complex physical, behavioral, and emotional needs.

Why animals should not be in circuses? ›

Travelling circus life is likely to have a harmful effect on animal welfare, as captive animals are unable to socialise, get enough exercise or behave as they would in the wild. Many animals develop behavioural and/or health problems as a direct result of the captive life that they're forced to lead.

How are animals mistreated in entertainment? ›

Animals don't like to put on shows—they're used and abused for the sake of human entertainment. To force bears, elephants, tigers, and others in circuses to perform confusing and physically demanding tricks, trainers use bullhooks, whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, and other painful tools of the trade.

Why animals should not be used for sports and entertainment? ›

The use of animals as “entertainers” removes animals from their natural habitat; deprives them of the ability to freely engage in instinctual behaviors; often involves cruel training methods; desensitizes both children and adults to animal mistreatment; and does not adequately address the real conservation threats that ...

Do zoos help or harm animals? ›

That captivity can be REALLY bad for both physical AND psychological health. And while zoos have been really helpful is saving endangered animals, it doesn't work out for certain species. For example, most large carnivores like lions and tigers that are bred in captivity die when released into the wild.

Why should the use of all animals in circuses should be banned and zoos should be closed down? ›

First of all, the use of circuses and zoos are bad for animals. Animals are taken out of their natural habitat where they flourish and are put in unhealthy conditions. They are observed and used by humans purely for entertainment. They are overworked and often starved.

How are animals abused in zoos? ›

Animals in zoos are forced to live in artificial, stressful, and downright boring conditions. Removed from their natural habitats and social structures, they are confined to small, restrictive environments that deprive them of mental and physical stimulation.

Why should animal testing be banned? ›

Animal experiments prolong the suffering of humans waiting for effective cures because the results mislead experimenters and squander precious money, time, and other resources that could be spent on human-relevant research. Animal experiments are so worthless that up to half of them are never even published.

Why animals should not be kept in captivity essay? ›

The removal of the animals from their natural habitat affects their physical and mental health. Inadequate space for roaming animals. Lack of exercise because of limited space and ready-to-eat food. Dependent on human beings for food as they don't haunt for food they are served readymade.

Why animals should not be kept in captivity? ›

Captive-bred animals generally lack the survival skills necessary to be released into the wild and often have developed such severe zoochosis—psychological trauma brought on by captivity—that they would not survive.

Why are circuses cruel? ›

To force animals to perform, circus trainers abuse them with whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bullhooks (heavy batons with a sharp steel hook on one end), and other painful tools of the circus trade.

Why animals are not happy in zoos? ›

Animals in zoos are caged for life and deprived of the opportunity to develop and fulfill the full range of their interests and needs. They lose control over their lives and the environment they live in. Social animals are often forced to live in the misery of solitary confinement.

Do zoos help or harm animals essay? ›

Similarly, zoos are a safe breeding ground for animals. They ensure the animal breeds so they never go extinct. This helps in creating a good balance. Moreover, the zoos ensure the animals get all the nutrition in their bodies to lead a healthy life.

How many animals are abused each year? ›

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that nearly 1 million animals a year are abused or killed in episodes of domestic violence.

Why is animal testing wrong? ›

The use of nonpredictive animal experiments can cause human suffering in at least two ways: (1) by producing misleading safety and efficacy data and (2) by causing potential abandonment of useful medical treatments and misdirecting resources away from more effective testing methods.

Why is animal testing morally wrong? ›

Experimenting on animals is always unacceptable because: it causes suffering to animals. the benefits to human beings are not proven. any benefits to human beings that animal testing does provide could be produced in other ways.

Why animals should not be kept in zoos pros and cons? ›

Top 10 Zoo Pros & Cons – Summary List
Zoo ProsZoo Cons
Global cooperation is encouragedLack of regulation can be a problem
Zoos may protect animals from poachingSome zoos are quite crowded
Nice for field tripsAnimals may develop mental issues
Multiple types of zoosNot possible to return animals to the wild
6 more rows

What are the disadvantages of keeping animals in zoos? ›

List of the Disadvantages of Zoos
  • When animals are born in captivity, they become dependent on humans. ...
  • There is an ethical question that we must answer. ...
  • Zoos can struggle to stay profitable. ...
  • The enclosures at a zoo alter the natural behaviors of the animal.

What's wrong with circuses? ›

They are often subjected to poor living conditions; confinement for long periods; lack of privacy; restricted movement (through chaining and tethering); extreme temperatures; unnatural close contact with people (trainers, performers, and public); high noise levels; and abusive training methods.

Are animal circuses good? ›

Using animals in circuses is an unnecessary and inhumane practice that's harmful to both the animals and the public. Unlike the human performers who choose to work in circuses, exotic animals are forced to take part in the show. They are involuntary actors in a degrading, unnatural spectacle.

Do you think it is right to have animals in circus give reason? ›

The wild animals commonly abused in circuses are extremely stressed by circus conditions. The loud noise of the music, the cheers of the crowd and the dizzying lights all disorientate and cause stress to wild animals. Over prolonged periods this can result in abnormal behaviours and health problems related to anxiety.

Is using animals for entertainment unethical? ›

The use of animals to entertain human beings is wrong from the welfare point of view because: it removes animals from their natural habitat and social structure. it involves the animal in performances that are foreign to their natural behaviour. it may involve cruelty during the show (e.g. bullfighting, rodeos)

Are animals still used in circuses? ›

In 2021, Colorado banned the use of elephants, big cats, bears, and other animals in circuses and other traveling shows. In 2022, Kentucky banned the use of both endangered species in circuses and exotic animals in county fairs, including a ban on elephant rides. Current bills we support: Massachusetts (S.

Is it ethical to have zoos and circuses? ›

Despite the high standards of AZA zoos and aquariums, some individuals object to zoos on an ethical basis. Some people believe that animals have an intrinsic right to liberty and, therefore they conclude all zoos are inherently wrong, Dr. Hutchins said.

Are circus animals abuse? ›

To force animals to perform, circus trainers abuse them with whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bullhooks (heavy batons with a sharp steel hook on one end), and other painful tools of the circus trade.

Why is it wrong to keep animals in captivity? ›

Often, captive conditions are extremely inhumane for animal life and the process of captive animal-trade is one of extreme suffering for all creatures. The main argument against animal captivity is that wild animals are meant to be just that, and locking them up denies them their very nature.

Why animals should not be kept in captivity essay? ›

The removal of the animals from their natural habitat affects their physical and mental health. Inadequate space for roaming animals. Lack of exercise because of limited space and ready-to-eat food. Dependent on human beings for food as they don't haunt for food they are served readymade.

Are circus animals treated well? ›

Animals in circuses are often beaten, shocked, kicked, or cruelly confined in order to train them to be obedient and do tricks. With elephants, the abuse begins when they are babies to break their spirits. All four of the baby elephant's legs are chained or tied for up to 23 hours per day.

What really happens to circus animals? ›

Physical punishment has always been the standard training method for animals in circuses. Animals are beaten, shocked, and whipped to make them perform—over and over again—tricks that make no sense to them. The AWA allows the use of bullhooks, whips, electrical shock prods, or other devices by circus trainers.

How zoos treat animals? ›

Animals in zoos are forced to live in artificial, stressful, and downright boring conditions. Removed from their natural habitats and social structures, they are confined to small, restrictive environments that deprive them of mental and physical stimulation.

Are zoos bad or good for animals? ›

That captivity can be REALLY bad for both physical AND psychological health. And while zoos have been really helpful is saving endangered animals, it doesn't work out for certain species. For example, most large carnivores like lions and tigers that are bred in captivity die when released into the wild.

Is it right to keep animals in zoos? ›

With the ongoing threat to wildlife environments and the many benefits that come with zoos, it's safe to say that they're essential to the long-term survival of many species. Not only can zoos help protect, breed, and reintroduce animals, but we can learn about them to help create a better world for them.

Is it cruel to keep animals in zoos? ›

It is expensive and difficult to keep wild animals in captivity. These animals oftentimes live in inhumane conditions, and pose a serious threat to public safety. Trading in Wild Animals: Every year, thousands of animals enter the captive wild animal trade. Some of these animals are “surplus” from roadside zoos.

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