Making a difference – working for bears
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) licenses animal exhibitors and enforces the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The AWA sets forth only minimum requirements for animal care, and for the most part, only addresses basic husbandry issues. For example, animals must be fed, watered, and sheltered, yet space requirements only mandate that the animals be able to make “normal postural changes” (i.e. allow them enough room to stand up, lie down, and move around a bit.) There is no requirement for grass, greenery or other natural vegetation. There are no requirements for the animals to be “let out” of their cages for exercise or to relieve themselves. Jamming bears in cages, muzzling them, and hauling them around on the fair circuit is not illegal. (Some species, including horses, ponies, reptiles, fish, and other cold-blooded animals are specifically excluded from the AWA.)
One of the worst, if not the worst, “bear show” which has come to our attention is that of James Hall who does business as the Bear Mountain Wildlife Show and Castle’s Bears). Kept in small cages and loaded into trucks this show travels around the USA to fairs and local events. The bears, amongst other cruelties, are dressed up and made to ride bicycles. Unfortunately, in the words of PETA, “here in the U.S., what most compassionate people would find abusive is often not considered cruel under our laws”.
You can see footage of the Bear Mountain Wildlife Show here. This footage dates back to 2012 but we understand that this appalling act continues, sometimes under the alternative names of Castle’s Bears and Hall’s Bears.
Sadly, this is not an isolated example of bears being used as “entertainment” in the USA. See here, for example, to watch a video and read about Tangier Shrine Circus’s performing bears in Iowa. This circus is produced by James Christy Cole Circus.
You can help the hundreds of captive bears in the U.S. by calling on the USDA to implement bear-specific space and enrichment regulations that take bears’ intelligence, curiosity, and complex environmental needs into account. Please send a polite e-mail to Chester Gipson: firstname.lastname@example.org. And please spread the word about this by talking to family, friends, and coworkers, especially those with small children who may be inclined to visit a fair that uses wild animals. Explain to them that every ticket purchased is contributing directly to making animals’ lives miserable.
Page updated 25 August 2017