Lion Runs Amok After Escaping Circus in Italy


In an incident that brought attention to the dangers of cruel circuses, a lion escaped from a circus in Ladispoli, Italy—a town near Rome—and was on the loose for at least five hours. 

The town’s mayor issued an inspiring statement against speciesist live-animal displays, saying, “I hope that this episode will stir some consciences, and that we can finally put an end to the exploitation of animals in circuses.”

Not much is known about how the lion escaped, but according to the mayor, the circus’staff members reportedly found a broken lock at the circus. The lion was eventually found and recaptured near a school, and witnesses noted that the animal appeared frightened and in a state of mild hypothermia. Local law-enforcement officials have since launched an investigation into the incident.

Circuses Are Dangerous to Animals and the Public

Confining big cats and other animals to cages, hauling them from town to town, and forcing them to perform under the threat of punishment is a recipe for disaster. Frustrated by years of exploitation, many animals have bolted from circuses and run amok through the streets before being recaptured.

Some animals have been so traumatized from constant abuse that they have lashed out and attacked handlers. In 2021, for example, a female tiger named Bega mauled a crop-wielding circus handler. A video of the gruesome incident shows the handler repeatedly whipping Bega in the face.

Big Cats Suffer in Circuses

In nature, lions and other big cats spend their time running, roaming vast distances, choosing mates, and socializing with other members of their species. Circuses rob big cats of everything that’s natural and important to them. Exhibitors cart them around in tiny cages, often forcing them to eat, drink, sleep, defecate, and urinate in the same place.

Trainers use abusive methods—including whippings and food deprivation—to force them to perform unnatural tricks in front of roaring crowds. This miserable confinement causes big cats to suffer from extreme psychological distress. Some spend their days frantically pacing in their enclosures or even mutilating themselves.

Speak Out Against Speciesist Circuses!

Big cats and other animals don’t want to be exploited for entertainment. Here’s how you can push back against cruel circuses:

  • When a circus comes to town, hold a demonstration to inform the public that demeaning stunts by animals forced to perform in the ring are the result of behind-the-scenes abuse. Let your local news outlet know about the suffering that animals used in circuses endure. For detailed information about specific circuses, including U.S. Department of Agriculture citations and dangerous incidents, click here.
  • Start a campaign to ban live-animal acts or to amend the cruelty-to-animals ordinance in your community so that it includes language forbidding the use of bullhooks and other manual, mechanical, and chemical devices intended to cause pain and suffering.
  • Avoid all circuses that use animals. Talk to friends and family members, particularly those with young children who might be especially inclined to go. Click here for a list of animal-free circuses that you can recommend to others.
  • For other ways that you can help, check out “Steps to Take When the Circus Comes to Town.”





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