Hope for abused animals in entertainment

In China, wild animals are widely used for performances in zoos and circuses. Lions, tigers, bears, monkeys and elephants are held in appalling conditions, regularly mistreated and abused, just to entertain audiences and make money. But there is hope for improvements. Chinese audiences are becoming increasingly aware of and concerned about the cruelty involved in using animals in entertainment. A circus in Zhangzhou city, Fu Jian Province, was recently banned from using wild animals, and although it flouted the ban, audiences stayed away. The Chinese government has also taken a significant step to stop this cruelty, by banning animals in performances in zoos.

In China, wild animals are widely used for performances in zoos and circuses. Lions, tigers, bears, monkeys and elephants are held in appalling conditions, regularly mistreated and abused, just to entertain audiences and make money. Earlier this year a circus (with lions and tigers) turned up in Zhangzhou, a city with over 4.6 million inhabitants. To promote the shows the circus took out prime time TV commercials, advertised online and even paraded their wild animals on city streets.

Zhangzhou Small Animal Protection Group (ZSAPG) decided to take action, and conducted a campaign to stop this circus from using wild animals:

  1. They warned the local police about the potential danger to the public in connection with the exhibition of wild animals on the streets.
  2. They then complained to the appropriate authorities about the circus. Although the use of wild animals in circuses is unfortunately not prohibited by Chinese law, a circus must have proper documentation. This circus did not have its papers in order, so a ban was issued, forbidding them to display wild animals.
  3. Finally, members of ZSAPG informed the television channel and website on which the circus was advertising about its illegal practices. As a result they immediately stopped broadcasting the circus commercials.

Although the circus has ignored the ban and continues the use of wildlife in their show, the stands remain empty. Potential audiences have successfully been informed about the abuse of wild animals and have decided to stay away. This is a big success for ZSAPG and a blow to the circus, which will not be returning to Zhangzhou next year.

ZSAPG feels that it was supported in this campaign by the training received from ACTAsia capacity building workshops since 2006: “In the workshops we learned to work strategically and plan our actions step by step. Thus we have achieved results.”

We are extremely pleased with ZSAPG’s success as this is one of their early campaigning experiences and they are a great model to follow on how to transfer workshop training into campaigns on the ground. ACTAsia’s workshops have covered, among other subjects, campaign planning, project management and welfare issues for wildlife used in entertainment.