Unbearable – Hell on wheels for circus bears touring the U.S.

For up to 20 minutes a day, they are dressed up in clothes, have muzzles strapped around their mouths and are made to dance and perform demeaning tricks – for the rest of the time they are caged in tiny cells in a prison truck.  This is life for a group of bears, owned and trained by Texas-based James and Tepa Hall, currently touring the U.S. as ‘Bear Mountain’ or ‘Hall’s Bears’ or ‘Castle’s Bears’.

Today Animal Defenders International (ADI) released video shot inside the bear transporter, which shows a bear desperately circling a small steel cage measuring about 31/2 feet wide, by 6ft deep and about 8ft high.  The steel floor of this barren cage is covered in just a scattering of sawdust.

ADI investigators monitored the day to day life of the bears at circuses and county shows in five states – South Carolina, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois and Iowa – and found that the bears spend on average, 98% of their time shut in their cages in a trailer. Their time outside these miserable prison cells generally averages just 10 minutes a day on weekdays and 20 minutes on Sundays.

Jan Creamer, President of ADI:  “The performance looks like something out of the middle ages and the way these animals are forced to live is like a medieval dungeon too.  These are some of the worst living conditions we have witnessed for circus animals.  These poor bears, which are so intelligent and naturally to inquisitive are being stored for almost their entire time in what are little more metal boxes.”

For performances the bears – Syrian bears Giza, Zuzu and Nemo, and European brown bears Tutter and Nanook – are muzzled and led out on leashes.  In an unnatural and demeaning display the mighty animals are forced to walk on their hind legs, do handstands, dance, balance on ball, and ride a bicycle and a motorcycle.

After their sad outing they are led back to the 24-foot long trailer and caged again. 

The windows of the trailer are approximately 10-11 ft. off the ground, covered in thick steel mesh, high above the bears’ heads so there is no view for them to look out.  During the ADI observations daytime temperatures ranged from the 80”s to the low 90’s.  The lights are kept on until approximately 1am and fans blow noisily.

For the Bear Mountain stage shows, the bears were transferred to cages at the back of the stage for short periods of time – but still spent most of the day cages in in the trailer.

For such intelligent animals, this is a tortuous way to live. Bear species are known for their intelligence and inquisitive nature, for their desire to explore great distances each day and their enjoyment of anything new and interesting. In zoos, bears have been found to suffer the adverse effects of captivity.

Jan Creamer:  “The circus bears are suffering terribly and have been deprived of almost everything that is natural to them.  It is urgent that federal measures are introduced to end the use of wild animals in travelling shows.  As more and more countries around the world prohibit travelling exhibitions like this, the United States is steadily being left behind.”

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