5 Disgusting and Depressing Stories of Captive Animal Abuse

circus elephant abuse photo

Photo: angela n./Creative Commons

Your impressions of zoos and circuses may be all about healthy animals, up-close glimpses of rare creatures, and the captive breeding programs that can bring endangered species back from the brink -- but not all of these animal owners are so ethical, so qualified, or so kind.

All around the world, stories of abuse, death, illness, beatings, and other stomach-turning animal treatment have inspired bans on zoos and circuses -- but many of these actions still go on.

1. Anne the Elephant

Video: YouTube

In March, this video of workers at the traveling Bobby Roberts Super Circus in the UK beating a 59-year-old elephant named Anne inspired the country's Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, to ban all wild animals from circuses.

The undercover footage shows Anne chained up for hours at a time, beaten on her back leg -- where she has arthritis -- and also points out other animals that were beaten and spit upon in the same enclosure. The elephant was removed from the circus, while Spelman and other animal activists in the country moved forward with a policy that would stop tigers, lions, camels, and other animals from being permitted in circuses.

2. Siberian Tigers

caged siberian tiger photo
Photo: the bridge/Creative Commons Siberian tigers are one of the world's most endangered species, which makes this story from China all the more chilling: Blaming food that was too expensive, the Shenyang Forest Wild Animal Zoo allowed 11 of its Siberian tigers to starve to death in "cold, cramped metal cages during the first three months of 2010.

The AP put it this way: "The deaths underscore the conflicting signals in China's attempts to save its dwindling number of tigers. While extensive conservation efforts are under way, animal protection groups say zoos and wildlife parks may be deliberately breeding more animals than they can afford, hoping to sell off the carcasses onto a black market where tiger parts fetch a high price for use in traditional medicines and liquor."

3. China's National Zoos

caged lion in zoo photo
Photo: magicmonkey/Creative Commons

China responded to repeated reports of abuse among its national zoos with a country-wide ban on the organizations.

Some of the most egregious abuses included live monkey fights, bears forced to walk across tightropes, and lions that were beaten so that they'd jump through flaming hoops. In just three months, the country's Forestry Bureau had found more than 50 zoos that were abusing their animals. And in addition to beating and abusing the live animals, many of the zoos also used parts from rare dead animals to bring in extra income elsewhere: They ended up on the menu at the zoos' restaurants.

4. Cairo's Giza Zoo

zoo gorilla  captivity photo
Photo: D'Arcy Norman/Creative Commons

Reports out of Cairo's Giza Zoo don't put the organization in a very flattering light: Though there haven't been specific mentions of physical abuse, the zoo was kicked out of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums in in 2004 in part for the "inhumane killing of two gorillas thought to be infected with the Ebola virus."

The zoo also lost birds to Avian Flu and blamed two intruders for the death of two camels -- and last summer, Global Post reported that zookeepers were taking under-the-table payments to let visitors play with bears, lion cubs, and other wild animals.

5. Roadside Zoo Bears

brown bear roadside zoo photo
Photo: tubesox_family/Creative Commons

The bears in captivity at a roadside zoo in Cherokee, North Carolina, got some help from a famous friend: Bob Barker.

The former "Price is Right" host partnered with PETA for a blog post that decried the conditions of the bear's lodgings -- which Barker described this way: "There were six to seven bears in concrete cubicles. Their fur was hanging off, they were begging for food, and an employee was tossing one bear cub around by the scruff of his neck."

A year later, PETA went to the USDA after a 9-year-old girl at one of the parks was scratched and nearly bitten by one of the bears while she was feeding it "Lucky Charms and cat food."

More on Animal Cruelty
"The 5 Best States to be an Animal Abuser"
Live Animals Being Sold as Keyrings in China
Will Congress Actually Be Able to Prevent Farm Animal Cruelty?

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