Circuses, in one form or another, have been around for hundreds if not thousands of years. They have been steadily declining in numbers and popularity since the beginning of World War II, although there are still a number of small circuses to be found in Britain.
Nowadays not all circuses feature animals in the performances but it used to be very common. Elephants, lions, zebras and camels would move all around the country in small cages, in the back of trucks performing for the crowds and then move on again. Animal rights campaigners have been protesting about this practice for decades and, in May 2019, the government introduced The Wild Animals in Circuses Bill to ban the use of wild animals in travelling circuses in the UK.
Animals in the circus are made to perform unnatural tricks for entertainment and are kept in conditions very different to their normal or suitable habitats. It can be said that circus owners and workers care and love their animals very much but the question still remains if it is 'right' to use and keep animals in this way for human entertainment.
A very interesting case came up in 2014 about Sandra, an orangutan who had been kept in a zoo in Argentina for 20 years. Sandra was shy and often hid from the public. A landmark case was settled in a Buenos Aires court granting her some of the legal rights that we as humans have. The singular case hung on whether the animal was a "thing" or a "person". Here is an excerpt from a BBC article;
Lawyers for Argentina's Association of Professional Lawyers for Animal Rights (Afada) said Sandra was "a person" in the philosophical, not biological, sense.
She was, they argued, in a situation of illegal deprivation of freedom as a "non-human person".Read More: Vivisection