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Tons of fun: Not for everyone

First steps toward ending the use of captive wildlife for entertainment

Kind News magazine, Aug/Sept 2016

Companies are beginning to listen to public criticism about the use of animals in entertainment. Photo by Anthony Pierce/Alamy

For many years, people have watched wild animals doing tricks in circuses and marine parks. Elephants parade around a noisy arena. They wow the crowd with tricks they have been forced to learn like balancing on stools or standing on their head—things they'd never do in the wild. After the show, they're loaded onto a train or trailer and sent to the next town where they do it all over again.

At marine parks, orca whales—measuring up to 25 feet long and weighing thousands of pounds—splash out of the water and do amazing tricks, drawing cheers from the audience.

Sure, it's fun to watch these wild animals up close, but many people wonder if it's really fair to the animals. After all, an orca whale in the wild has the entire ocean as a home. They live in family groups (called pods) and may travel 100 miles in a day. Is living alone swimming around in circles in a small pool a good life for an orca?

In the wild, elephants also live in close family groups. They're very smart and look after each other and play together—things they can't do as circus performers.  

Changing times

Today, more and more people are saying that things should change. They believe that the animals deserve to live a more natural life and not be used for entertainment. And now some companies are beginning to listen.

In March 2015, Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey announced that they would no longer use elephant acts in their circuses. And on May 1, 2016, the elephants performed their last show, signaling an end to a long history of elephants in circuses and traveling shows.

A year after the Ringling announcement, SeaWorld Theme Parks pledged to give the orcas in their facilities a better life as well. The company announced that it would begin to phase out shows featuring orcas performing tricks. Instead, they will highlight more of the whales' natural behaviors. SeaWorld also said they would not breed (let the orcas have babies) or add any more captive orcas to their parks.

These are first steps toward putting an end to using captive wildlife for entertainment. And these changes were made after many people spoke out loud and clear to say that wild animals deserve to live wild and free.

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