A near-fatal lion attack reopens the debate on the use of circus animals. Thus far, Bolivia is the only country that no longer has to fear circus lion attacks, since the use of circus animals is banned. What is the key issue in this debate?
Lion Attacks Tamer in Ukraine
CBS News reports on a lion attack that left a Ukrainian circus animal trainer maimed. Within only 10 feet of small children and the general audience – and separated by little more than mesh netting — the initial lion attack is quickly followed by a secondary assault on the tamer by another one of the big cats.
How Often Do Lions Attack?
The use of circus animals is a hot topic. Animal rights groups assert that lion attacks are merely an expression of the animals’ naturally wild and untamed nature. Consumers who see the circus lion as an ongoing tradition beg to differ. In fact, lion attacks are more common than you may think.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) lists a number of incidents (up to the year 2004) from such animal attacks. Examples include a 2003 fatal lion attack on a Russian circus animal trainer, a 2002 deadly attack on a child by a runaway circus lion, a 2001 mauling of a lion tamer by three circus lions in Australia, a 2001 killing of circus animals by lions in Spain and also a 2000 attack on a small child by a liger during a circus performance in Germany.
The list continues on, but it is safe to say that lion attacks are not exceptions but more or less par for the course. Throughout history, the use of circus animals in general – and lions in particular – has been a dangerous undertaking. GenDisasters reports on a lion attack dating back to 1898, when a Lehman Brothers Circus animal trainer was maimed and killed by the animals he cared for and trained.
Why Do Consumers Insist on “Tamed” Lions?
Lions remain part and parcel of the group of circus animals that bring in money. Not surprisingly, there is little incentive for businesses to eliminate lion taming from their programs. The Asian Animal Protection Network (AAPN) points out that consumer education may just be the key to ending the string of lion attacks, simply by having the paying public demand an end to the use of the big cats as circus animals.
Examples of the need for consumer education include the visible signs of fear that the lions exhibit as they perform in the circus. The organization points to the lions’ body language, flattened ears and loud snarls, all of which signal fear. Another point of awareness that consumers should reach is the fact that usually free-roaming animals are now kept for the majority of the day – sometimes as long as 23 hours – in small cages.
AAPN asserts that circus animals perform their tricks simply to avoid punishment.
Bolivia Bans Use of Circus Animals
It is interesting to note – as outlined by the Guardian – that Bolivia is currently the world leader with respect to banning circus animals. The country’s ban includes wild and domestic animals.
As the Ukrainian lion attack video goes viral on the Internet, it is anyone’s guess if this reminder of the animals’ wild nature will lead to more discussions on the use of circus animals for consumer entertainment.
CBS News: “Circus Lion Attack Caught on Tape”
HSUS: “2004 HSUS Circus Incidents”
GenDisasters: “Butte, MT Circus Lion Attack, Oct 1898”
AAPN: “On Circuses”
Guardian: “Bolivia bans all circus animals”