WATCH: Bear Snaps at Handler Mid-Circus, Is Beaten With a Shovel

Published by Katherine Sullivan.

How many times does an “animal snaps at circus handler” video need to go viral before everyone everywhere stops exploiting animals for entertainment? (Spoiler: The answer should be “zero.”) No one needed this latest example of the cruelty and stupidity of forcing animals to perform, but we got it anyway—and like all the others, it’s difficult to ignore:

A black bear was made to take part in a circus performance in central China on Friday, October 2. When audience members reportedly threw food on stage, he naturally tried to eat what was in front of him. But according to a witness, the bear’s handler “wouldn’t allow it because [the bear was] performing.” The handler reportedly beat him to prevent him from “eating [the] treats,” causing the animal to lash out in frustration and defensiveness. In the video, another circus staff member can be seen forcefully hitting the bear on the head with his palm. A third staff member then appears and begins beating him with a large shovel—and a fourth then joins in, whacking him with a stick, as if he’s hitting a ball with a bat.

The bear’s teeth had reportedly been sawed off when he was a cub, something that’s apparently done in preparation for incidents like this. According to the Daily Mail, the handler sustained scratches to his arm and will recover.

It’s not shocking that a bear would lash out after being beaten, and it’s appalling that animals are still being used as props and abused in circuses in 2020.

As heartbreaking as this video is, it’s certainly nothing new—we’ve seen this type of cruelty too many times to count. A PETA Asia investigator visited circuses and animal-training facilities in China and discovered bear cubs chained by their necks and tethered to a wall, which is done (sometimes for hours) to train them to walk on their hind legs—abuse that can cause permanent joint damage or even necrosis and paralysis.

The investigator also documented that handlers used violence and intimidation to make bear cubs jump over objects, walk on their hands, and perform other confusing tricks—and when the cubs cried, screamed, grunted, and groaned, the abuse still didn’t stop.

Make no mistake: Abuse of bears used in circuses isn’t limited to China.

Millions have now seen the eyewitness video footage of a bear urinating on herself in apparent distress while being pulled by a leash and forced to walk on her front legs during a performance of the Tangier Shrine Circus outside Omaha, Nebraska.

PETA took immediate action, urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate the act (known as “Castle’s Bears”) for apparent violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. As a result of COVID-19, circuses featuring acts like Castle’s Bears are closing down (which is some rare good news relating to the pandemic)—and we urge them all to stay closed, unless they reopen with only willing human performers. And we continue to stand ready to transport bears used in the show to a reputable sanctuary, where they’d never be tormented again—a victory that you can help us achieve:

Of course bears used in circuses and other shows lash out, scream, and urinate on themselves—as unwilling performers, they’re terrorized so that they’ll do tricks. They’re forced to travel many miles to be put on display, unable to roam, swim, forage, dig, or hibernate (things that bears left alone in nature love to do). Until bears and all other animals are treated respectfully, as the individuals they are (instead of as something to exploit and gawk at), these disasters will continue to take place. So join us: Sign PETA Asia’s pledge to be part of the solution

… and urge your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter to do the same.

Get PETA Updates

Stay up to date on the latest vegan trends and get breaking animal rights news delivered straight to your inbox!

By submitting this form, you are agreeing to our collection, storage, use, and disclosure of your personal info in accordance with our privacy policy as well as to receiving e-mails from us.

 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind