Should I Feel Guilty for Taking My Kids to the Circus?


circusA few weeks ago, I received press tickets to Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. My kids were thrilled, we had an OK time (ruined more by my children's meltdowns than anything to do with the circus), and we were all impressed by the daring feats of strength and will. But then I started to hear about how circus animals are treated and I started to feel horrifically guilty.

Animal rights activists describe circus animals with teeth broken from constantly gnawing on their cages. The say some of the exotic animals get infected feet from standing in their own excrement for extended periods of time. Fabulous.

It isn't the part of the show I want the kids to know about when they're exclaiming over elephants and loving the tiger show. On the other hand, we do a lot of things that are less than kind and I am not exactly a lover of the PETA mentality. So what's a good mom to do?

Well, the first thing to do is research, obviously. Is this true? There are many PETA-like sites that say it's true and many lawsuits alleging it. But this animal cruelty charge doesn't seem to be covered by major investigative journalists. So, if it's true, it isn't being well publicized. Also, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus denies it.

Obviously no one is going to admit to abuse, but the message to me is this: Until something is proven to me and I can no longer see any doubt that it's true, then I will do what I want, and if that means going to the circus, then that's what it means. As far as I am concerned, PETA isn't a credible source. I hate them so much that if they back a cause, I might even choose to do the opposite just because they're so awful.

But PETA isn't the point. Really, this is more about the choices we make for our kids and outside influences. There will always be a reason not to use disposable diapers or take our kids to the zoo or feed them non-organic strawberries or too much sugar.

Of course, these things give me pause and I wonder and I research, but to the best of my knowledge, it's OK to take my kids to the circus. They had fun. I had fun and the whole thing was a good night.

If later I find out that PETA was right, I will probably stop going. But until The New York Times covers actual abuse, I am going with tradition and fun.

Do you ever feel guilty about things you do with your kids?



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Mrs.K... Mrs.Kubalabuku

I find it hard to believe that all of PETA's accusations are true.  PETA has been known to use pictures that are decades old, digitally colored, and sell them as current events.  Even zoos have animals that get sick, injured, or depressed from things in their environments, but the goal is to educate and inspire caring.  And when you consider how much those exotic animals cost, I seriously doubt a well managed circus would allow the animals to be abused.  (The most famous traveling circuses have vets on staff.)  Add to that, if seeing the animals in the circus inspires a kid to care and want to do more for the environment, power to the circus!
For me, I will only go to a circus that I know something about.  Research the circus before using the tickets, if things appear OK, go.  As moms, we can only do our best.  And there is so much to enjoy about a good circus act.  You're only wrong if you see something bad and don't report it.

cocob... cocobeannns

"Research the circus before using the tickets." Perhaps you should. Seeing as though you have high doubts regarding circus animals being abused. As others have pointed out, there have been numerous documented and videotaped reports of abuse by the Ringling Bros. I will never attend a circus for this reason only. I will never support anyone or anything that abuses or uses animals in that way. If I had children, I would not take them either. There are other forms of entertainment. I was just asked to go with my nieces and I refused. Those animals deserve better.

slw123 slw123

I don't think you should feel guilty.  These animals weren't plucked out of the wild by the circus to become circus slaves.  The animals were most likely born into captivity from animals that were injured in some way or already in captivity.  It's hard to take an animal born into captivity and release them into the wild and expect them to know how to survive since they were never taught by their mother how to survive.  So they animals get placed in zoos or circuses and such, and this way people get to learn about the animals and see them close up.

One of our favorite places to take our kids is to Sea World.  I really WISH that the animals weren't in captivity, but Sea World didn't go out and pluck them out of the sea for our entertainment.  They were injured and brought to live there or they were born into it.  There is no doubt that the animals are well cared for. It would be tragic for the animals to be released back into the wild and then the animals couldn't take care of themselves.

When we pay to see these animals, we are paying for their care too. 

I have never been to a circus, but I can't imagine living with an animal and not loving it.  I would really hope that the caretakers took the best care of them that they could.

I don't put much thought into what PETA has to say they are so extreme.

Mandago Mandago

I am firmly against circuses for all the reasons previous posters have listed, and wish to address one more point: taking children to the circus doesn't instill respect for animals any more than watching porn instills respect for women. These animals are being degraded and abused, and are coerced into performing acts that are in no way natural to them, simply to titilate an audience. How would that inspire a child to view animals as natural wonders that need our respect and protection?

momka... momkaribg

I have taken my kids to the circus, I do agree though the animals should not be treated cruelly.

Leele... Leelee1008

I have taken my boys to the circus, didnt feel bad about it

nonmember avatar danni

This is not about guilt this is about being educated about the “culture of abuse.” Abuse is abuse. And dominating animals and denying them their agency is just another form of abuse in addition to beating them to make them do unnatural acts and calling that “training.” The culture of domination and violence is not the direction we want our society to go, I think we all agree. The lifestyle of the circus is inherently abusive. Would you condone slavery if the slave owner was “nice” to their slave? All mammals share common stress regulating neurophysiology (Bradshaw & Schore, 2005). Dr. Frank Ascione just received a $1.5 mil grant from the fed’l govt to further his research in the connections of animal cruelty to human abuse/violence. Abuse is contagious and becomes a part of our social norm when we are not aware of the connections (Slutkin). Look up these doctors’ works and become aware of the dangerous connections. Say "no" to all forms of abuse in your community. Bullying and animal cruelty are just two.

ilove... ilovemyboys84

my boys have never been to a circus


We do things like donating and working in shelters and rescues. So no, I don't feel guilty. I WOULD feel guilty ever taking my child to a circus. We never have, and never will attend one.

mommy... mommythree0508

We go to the circus every year and will continue to go.

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