Planning to see a circus? Please patronize people circuses instead of animal circuses. Cirque du Soleil is a life-changing experience. The creativity and talent is unbelievable. The music is compelling and the acts are amazing. Gifted people choose this life of entertainment. The shows they imagine and create are breath-taking and well worth the price of admission.
On the other hand, animal circuses are full of entertainers that never had a choice to participate. I recently heard an interview with an undercover officer who investigates circuses. Her testimonial was convincing. Footage showing the torture may be found here.
"Bears, elephants, tigers, and other animals do not voluntarily ride bicycles, stand on their heads, balance on balls, or jump through rings of fire. They don't perform these and other difficult tricks because they want to; they perform them because they're afraid of what will happen if they don't.
For animals in circuses, there is no such thing as "positive reinforcement"—only varying degrees of punishment and deprivation. To force them to perform these meaningless and physically uncomfortable tricks, trainers use whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bullhooks, and other painful tools of the trade. Constant travel means that animals are confined to boxcars, trailers, or trucks for days at a time in extremely hot and cold weather, often without access to basic necessities such as food, water, and veterinary care. Elephants, big cats, bears, and primates are confined to cramped and filthy cages in which they eat, drink, sleep, defecate, and urinate—all in the same place.
Unsuspecting parents planning a family trip to the circus don't know about the violent training sessions with ropes, bullhooks, and electric shock prods that elephants endure."