Zero Joy for Zebras in the Circus
After years of being hauled around the country and forced to perform for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, a 12-year-old zebra named Lima broke free from his trainers, squeezed through a fence, and ran through the streets of Atlanta for 40 minutes, pursued by police and his trainers.
After police blocked off lanes of the interstate on which Lima was running, he was eventually captured. A Ringling Bros. spokesperson said that Lima would likely perform as usual—but the injuries to his hooves were so severe that he had to be euthanized.
Just like the lions, tigers, and elephants circuses exploit, zebras are wild animals. They tend to be high-strung and unpredictable, which puts both the animals and the public at risk. For example, three zebras, including Lima, escaped from Ringling while the circus was performing in Baltimore and dashed into traffic. In another incident, a Ringling veterinary technician informed California authorities that zebras had jumped out of a pen during a show. And when Ringling was performing in Colorado Springs, Colorado, four zebras and three horses who were being walked into an arena got spooked. All seven animals reportedly ran loose near a busy interstate.
Zebras are meant to roam large areas, and being kept inside cramped pens is bad for their health. There’s no vaccine data available for zebras, and they can contract diseases from horses and pass illnesses on to them. Yet Ringling travels with both horses and zebras.
According to a study by three veterinarians, two of whom worked for Ringling, zebras require heavy sedation (“ultrapotent narcotics”) for even minor procedures, so any injury puts them at risk.
Zebras are natural prey animals. Placing them in the middle of large crowds—not to mention in close proximity to lions and tigers—is extremely frightening to them. Because of their tendency to be easily spooked, this is dangerous for them and everyone around them. Zebras also have distinct social structures, but in the circus, they’re forced to live in incompatible groups. Less aggressive individuals can be bullied and hurt.
In the wild, zebras spend their days grazing together and grooming one another. They’re social animals who thrive in the company of other zebras. If one is threatened or attacked, the herd will often circle the wounded zebra, defending him or her from the attacker.
Zebras want to live in herds in the wild, not traveling in cramped boxcars or performing stupid tricks for humans’ “amusement.” They are NOT OURS to use for entertainment. Never go to any circus that uses animals, and urge your friends and family to stay away, too.