Bear Cubs, Lions Hit, Chained and Deprived in the Chinese Circus Industry

Posted on by PETA Australia

Throughout China, circuses, travelling 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 by 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.

Monkey in Chinese Circus


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.

Dog in Chinese Circus

Don’t Support Circus Industry Cruelty  

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. Australian-based Lennon Bros Circus and Stardust Circus continue to exploit big cats, monkeys and other animals, conducting training sessions behind closed doors.

In August 2001, lion trainer Geoffrey Lennon, from Stardust Circus, was mauled by three lions during a performance. His brother and fellow trainer Warren has said in relation to the attack, “the lions will have off days … when they don’t want anyone around them”. Warren also admits that

“[a]s soon as I come into the cage I pump myself up because I know I have to be in control …”.

Find out more about the cruelty involved in circuses in Australia here.

Please speak out and urge these circuses to drop all animal acts and, instead, to focus on spectacular human talent. Refuse to attend circuses that use animals, and urge your family members and friends to do the same.