Seven ways we can help end the use of non-human animals for entertainment

Humans have a long and grim history of using non-human animals for “entertainment”. Archaeological evidence shows that lions were being kept and displayed in cages in Macedonia dating back to 2000 BC and that rulers throughout the ancient world collected animals such as elephants, giraffes, tigers and bears as symbols of their power and status.

Roman emperors presided over circular arenas where various captive animals had no choice but to fight for their lives, either against each other or armed gladiators and packs of dogs.

And so the use of non-human animals for entertainment has continued into our present day.

Use of non-human animals for entertainment continues today

While we might hope to have moved on from slaughtering living beings for entertainment in the Colosseum, the reality is that, throughout the world, non-human animals are being taken advantage of, suffering, and even dying, for the pleasure of human onlookers.

Every year, for example, approximately 25,000 bulls are slaughtered in bullfights but not before they have been stabbed repeatedly to weaken them. Orcas in marine mammal parks are more likely to suffer stillbirths, display aggression or experience depression than in the wild; there have even been cases of orcas deliberating hurting themselves and dying as a result.

In some parts of the world, the use of bullhooks, whips and electrical shock prods to control non-human animals are commonplace. Trainers may even drug non-human animals to make them more “manageable” or surgically remove teeth and claws to make it safer for humans to be around the animals who are forced to perform for them.

The list of ways we make our animal kin suffer is staggering and continues in the name of profit. All the time there is a demand to see non-human animals used for entertainment, there will be people who are willing to perpetuate this exploitation.

The only way this will end is if humans show they have no appetite for seeing their animal kin anywhere outside of their natural habitat.

So, what can we do to help end the use of non-human animals for entertainment? Here are a few ideas.

1.      Boycott businesses that profit from exploiting non-human animals

Throughout the world, there are examples of businesses that profit from animal exploitation under the guise of providing entertainment. This includes zoos, marine parks, or circuses that still feature animal performers.

One of the most powerful things we can do is to boycott these businesses until they’re no longer financially sustainable.

In addition, we need to tell our friends, family and wider networks of the injustice of this exploitation and urge them to boycott these businesses too.

If you do want to lend your support to an animal-focused organisation, look for animal sanctuaries that are helping to remove non-human animals from the misery of entertainment so that they can live out the rest of their lives in more natural, enriching surroundings.

2.      Support a campaign

An important way to help end the use of other animals for entertainment is to undertake or join well-planned and targeted pressure campaigns against venues, shows and/or practices. The successful campaign led by animal rights group Prou! (Enough!) to end bullfighting in Catalunya is a great example of what people can achieve when they work together.

Internet search engines are a good starting point to find out about the current campaigns and how you can get involved.

3.      Sign a petition

In every country, there are people using their voices to advocate for animals in entertainment. You can help to support these people by signing and sharing petitions, donating to campaigns or lobbying decision-makers.

You can find out more about some of the current petitions and their progress through organisations such as:

– org

– 38 Degrees

– iPetitions

– GoPetition

– Avaaz

– RallyCall

– Causes

– Care2

– Network for Animals

In addition, petitions may be made directly to a country’s government and are published online. In the UK, for example, you can find open petitions and their stage (e.g. being debated in Parliament) at

Although signing a petition might seem like a small step, Ecojustice says it’s an action that can help to advance a cause by:

~ Raising awareness and signalling public opinion to decision-makers, influencing their decisions

~ Showing the media that there’s a story worth covering

~ Helping organisations to gain supporters and identify people who may want to get more involved on an issue

~ Providing an accessible avenue for activism and civic engagement, inviting people who might not otherwise get involved in those spaces to participate

4.      Tell lawmakers that you support animal-friendly legislation

We can help to create change by telling political leaders and lawmakers that we support animal-friendly legislation and local and national bans on using our animal kin in entertainment.

Many campaigns will highlight the most influential people to write to, including details of how to reach them. Alternatively, you can write to your local political representatives, explaining why you care about a particular cause.

Public pressure has a huge role to play in creating change.

5.      Amplify your voice

You can also amplify your voice in the fight against non-human animals being used for entertainment by posting to social media or writing letters to local and national news sites highlighting why certain venues, shows or practices are problematic.

6.      Skip films and TV shows that use non-human animals for entertainment

How often do we hear the disclaimer, “No animals were harmed in the making of this production”?

Sadly, this isn’t always the case.

In the past 15 years, there have been a number of incidents where animals have been injured or died during filming.

In 2006, it was reported that a Husky dog had been hit in the diaphragm five times and that force had been used to break up a dog fight on the set of the film, Eight Below Zero. That same year, a chipmunk was killed during the filming of Failure to Launch. The Pirates of the Caribbean came in for criticism after dozens of dead fishes and squids washed up on shore as a result of filming. In 2011, an elderly giraffe died during the production of Zookeeper. Just a year later, HBO cancelled its drama series about horse racing, Luck, after three horses died on set. It was also in 2012 that 27 animals including goats and sheep perished from dehydration, exhaustion or drowning on a New Zealand farm during filming for The Hobbit. In 2013, a report by the American Humane Association revealed that the Bengal tiger used in the Life of Pi had almost drowned in a water tank.

Think too how non-human animals are used for entertainment in programmes like I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, specifically the infamous “Bushtucker Trials”. In late 2021, the UK’s RSPCA issued a statement about the programme’s use of non-human animals saying that, over the course of 21 series, “animals have been dropped, thrown, handled roughly, crushed, chased, overcrowded, scared by contestants and prevented from escaping from stressful experiences”.

Again, we have to make it clear to television and filmmakers that the use of non-human animals is unacceptable. We can do this by refusing to watch these productions.

Equally, we can champion productions that use CGI to depict our animal kin instead. Mainstream shows like The Walking Dead or His Dark Materials have shown that there is the technology to create life-like animal characters without needing to exploit a living, breathing being who is unable to consent to filming.

7.      Say no to wildlife “tourism”

So-called “wildlife tourism” is a booming industry around the world (visits to tourist wildlife attractions are estimated to account for 20-40% of global tourism). Tourists flock to interact with non-human animals and, according to Wild Welfare, activities can include taking a selfie with a sloth, feeding a crocodile, riding an elephant, cuddling a tiger cub and many others.

Research published in 2015 found that only six types of tourist wildlife attractions, accounting for a maximum of 13,000 individual animals, could be found to have a positive impact on conservation or welfare. On the other hand, 14 types of attraction, affecting up to 340,000 animals, had a negative impact on conservation and 18 types of attraction negatively impacted welfare, affecting 550,000 individual animals.

The reality is that non-human animals are often subjected to unimaginable suffering in order to provide a photo opportunity for tourists. They may have been taken from their mothers far too young; separated from other members of their own species; stolen from a life in the wild; controlled with chains, whips or bullhooks; kept in squalid conditions; worked to exhaustion in extreme weather conditions, and more.

If you are travelling as a tourist, we urge you to avoid:

~ Photo opportunities and/or handling interactions – it’s rarely possible to get close to a free-living animal without them being scared or controlled using aversive methods

~ Riding a non-human animal (or in a vehicle pulled by them) – elephants, camels, donkeys or horses used for tourist rides are often denied breaks and wear ill-fitting, painful harnesses and seating (in March 2020, for example, a horse called Aisha collapsed while pulling a carriage around Central Park in New York; she later had to be euthanised and was one of three “carriage” horses to die in New York in the first three months of the year alone)

~ Buying products made from animals (e.g. medicines containing bear bile) – think about how a product might have been sourced; certain souvenirs or local foods can drive illegal trade in wildlife

~ Instead, listen to your instincts. As Wild Welfare states, “If you feel uncomfortable around an interaction, the chances are the animal does too”. Even if animals aren’t suffering, they are not resources for humans to use – we need to be mindful of this at all times.

Instead, look for ways that you can be an “animal-friendly tourist”. This can include:

~ Taking part in ethical, eco-friendly activities that support the communities and initiatives promoted by local animal welfare organisations

~ Do your research and ask questions before you visit an entertainment venue

~ Seeing non-human animals from a distance in their natural habitats (if you can do so without disturbing them)

~ Choosing activities that don’t involve non-human animals at all

World Animal Protection has published a helpful guide to supporting animal-friendly tourism.

While using other animals for entertainment seems especially frivolous and unnecessary and hence completely avoidable, it’s part of a bigger picture.

In our view, using our animal kin for any unnecessary reason – be it for entertainment, testing cosmetics and medicines, labour, ‘food’, palate pleasure, convenience, etc. – is morally wrong and has no place in a compassionate and kind world which is just for all.


Recent Posts

Date Archives

Back to top