Welfare implications for tigers in travelling circuses


There are very few studies that have focused on species-specific welfare implications for tigers in a travelling circus. The absence of scientific evidence to inform nationwide legislation means that tigers are still commonly used in travelling circuses across the world. A systematic review of relevant published studies was conducted using the bibliographic databases Web of Science and Scopus, supplemented by a narrative search. In total, 42 relevant studies were identified that assessed the welfare of tigers in captivity, including circuses and zoos. Only eight papers assessed the welfare implications for tigers in circuses directly, evidencing the lack of research in this area. Given that circuses provide a sub-optimal environment compared to zoos, implications for tiger welfare were also inferred from zoo research, within the Five Domains framework. Collectively, these papers infer that the travelling nature of a circus often negatively impacts the welfare domains of nutrition, physical environment, health, and mental state. This is due to limitations in enclosure size, as well as in both environmental and behavioural enrichment. There is also often difficulty in sourcing appropriate food and specialised routine veterinary care. The literature is divided concerning behavioural interactions, specifically whether training can improve welfare by offering mental stimulation. However, circus performances are often associated with negative welfare due to noise disruption from spectators. The collective scientific evidence indicates that tigers are not well suited to circus living, due to the inability of a travelling circus to provide for their species-specific psychological, physiological, and behavioural needs.

Davies E and Knight A. Welfare implications for tigers in travelling circuses. Animals. 2024, 14(7), 1053.