July 15, 2009
Statement on Animals in Entertainment and Competition
The HSUS opposes so-called blood sports such as dogfighting, cockfighting, hog-dog fighting, bullfighting, coon-on-a-log, coon-in-a-hole, and other similar spectacles involving the purposeful staging of fights between animals. All of these are unjustifiable animal contests that cause acute suffering for the animals forced to participate. These spectacles are largely condemned by the American public but continue to survive because of weak or non-existent laws or inadequate enforcement of existing laws.
The HSUS opposes greyhound racing. This practice leads to an unacceptable level of greyhound exploitation and suffering solely for profit. The industry promotes and tolerates an overproduction of dogs, resulting in an annual surplus numbering in the thousands, many of whom will end up being destroyed. The sheer waste of life is a scandal. We work to eliminate dog racing tracks where they currently exist, to prevent the legalization of racing in states where it is not permitted, and to prevent the establishment of racing tracks in communities where none now exists.
The HSUS does not oppose all horse racing or all horse shows; however, we do oppose a variety of practices that cause unnecessary suffering or undue risks to horses. These include the use of drugs for non-therapeutic purposes to enable injured or disadvantaged animals to race, the racing of young animals whose bones and bodies have not matured sufficiently, the use of goads and whips, the soring of show horses, over-breeding, and other activities that cause unnecessary distress to horses.
The HSUS also opposes the use of horses in fox hunting and other riding activities that involve the chasing or killing of wild animals.
The HSUS opposes rodeos as they are commonly organized, since they typically cause torment and stress to animals; expose them to pain, injury, or even death; and encourage an insensitivity to and acceptance of the inhumane treatment of animals in the name of sport. Accordingly, we oppose the use of devices such as electric prods, sharpened sticks, spurs, flank straps, and other rodeo equipment that cause animals to react violently, and we oppose bull riding, bronco riding, steer roping, calf roping, "wild horse racing," chuck wagon racing, steer tailing, and horse tripping.
The HSUS opposes the use of captive wild animals as performers in circuses, film and television, and commercials. An ever-growing body of scientific literature supports the contention that wild animals such as elephants and great apes possess highly developed emotional complexity, and that their psychological and social needs are difficult to satisfy in a captive setting. The risk of harm to people interacting with them in a performance setting poses undue risk for all concerned.
More broadly, few custodians of these long-lived animals provide cradle-to-grave care for wild animals once their careers are over. They are sometimes sold into the exotic animal trade, and channeled to private owners, laboratories, canned hunts, or substandard "sanctuaries" where the animals would face obvious and unacceptable threats to their well-being. With the increasing number of circuses that entertain without the use of wild animals, and the advent of animatronics, there is a less compelling need than ever for the use of wild animals in entertainment, and The HSUS supports a termination of their use for this purpose.