LETTER: Asia for Animals calls on Shanghai Circus World to cancel training school for macaques


(Featured image: Macaque performing balancing act at Changlu farms in Guangdong, China. Courtesy Animals Asia, used under CC BY-NC 2.0)

February 2016

Mr Yu Yigang
Shanghai Circus School
No.188 Rd. Chengjiaqiao
Minxing District



Dear Yu Yigang,


We are writing on behalf of the Asia for Animals coalition, representing international organisations with extensive knowledge of animal welfare and conservation issues. We express our deep concern with regards to the planned development of a macaque training school.


Shanghai Circus World is internationally famous for innovative and ground-breaking acrobatic acts involving some of the greatest human acrobats in the world, and attracting both a large Chinese national and an international audience.


Chimpanzee forced to jump through fire ring at Chime Long Circus in Panyu, China (photo credit: Tommy Wong, used under CC BY 2.0)

Chimpanzee forced to jump through fire ring at Chime Long Circus in Panyu, China (photo credit: Tommy Wong, used under CC BY 2.0)

The continued use of animals in the Shanghai Circus World contradicts the Chinese Communist Party’s policy directive on building China into a modern society of “ecological civilization” and the national government’s October 2010 ban on animal performance.[1]


The potential expansion of the circus to develop a “macaque training school” demonstrates support for a dying industry. A 2012 public opinion survey (conducted by “YouGov,” a market research company, on behalf of Animals Asia) demonstrated that 85% of people that have watched animal performances in zoos said that they would still visit the zoo if there was no animal performance.


It is reasonable to assume that visitor numbers would remain high, and possibly increase, if Shanghai Circus World was to adapt to become the leading animal-free circus within China.


The continued use of wild animals within such performances contributes to the desensitisation of society to animal violence. Acts of such cruelty condition viewers, including young children, to regard animals simply as objects to be used and abused for entertainment.


Macaques are sentient, intelligent animals. Research has demonstrated their ability for self-awareness[2] and metacognition,[3] with the ability to monitor their own minds as well as their own bodies through self-recognition. They demonstrate exceptional memory abilities including both recognition and the more cognitively complex ability to recall information,[4] complex tool-use,[5] and abilities for abstract thinking and problem solving.[6][7]


The welfare of performing macaques is severely compromised by their training, performances, and living conditions.


  • Macaque owners frequently engage in negative reinforcement, striking them, forcing them to carry out unnatural tricks and demonstrating that the animals can only be “controlled” by pain and fear.


  • Many macaques have their teeth cut back to render them harmless. This practice causes severe and chronic pain owing to the exposure of the pulp and nerve endings, and leads to potential infection of the surrounding area, including the gums, jawbone and nasal region.


  • Macaques are often housed in small, barren enclosures. This can have significant negative consequences on behaviour and welfare. Normal behaviour gives way to a higher percentage of inactivity and/or increased abnormal behaviour, i.e. self-injury, and stereotypies.[8]


  • Crab-eating macaques in Indonesia (photo credit: Kim Bartlett - Animal People, Inc.)

    Crab-eating macaques in Indonesia (photo credit: Kim Bartlett – Animal People, Inc.)

    Many of these animals are young macaques taken from their family groups only to be held in isolation. These young animals require time with their mothers and extended family members to allow them to develop the necessary social skills they will require throughout their lives. Animals separated from their mothers at an early age, or raised in inappropriately unstimulating environments are much more likely to develop behavioural problems and stereotypy as they age.[9]


The macaque owners have little or no training in animal welfare or husbandry and are inadequately equipped to provide these animals with the care they require. Stress caused by such conditions will cause these animals severe behavioural and physiological problems.


On behalf of all of our members globally, we appeal to you to cancel the planned development of the “macaque training school,” to develop a policy which sees a phase out of the use of all animals within the Shanghai Circus World performances, and to establish Shanghai Circus World with an international reputation of amazing human acrobatic performances based on the skill and the physical fitness of the performers.


AfA Coalition logo

Sent on behalf of the following organisations:

  1. Animal Guardians动物守护神
  2. Animal People动物公民
  3. Animals Asia Foundation亚洲动物基金
  4. ACRES动物关注研究和教育社团
  5. Blue Cross of India印度蓝十字会
  6. Change for Animals Foundation为动物改变基金会
  7. Earth Island Institute地球岛屿协会
  8. Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations印度动物保护组织联盟
  9. Humane Society International美国国际人道对待动物协会
  10. International Animal Rescue国际动物援救
  11. International Fund for Animal Welfare国际爱护动物基金会
  12. Philippine Animal Welfare Society菲律宾动物福利协会
  13. Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals英国皇家防止虐待动物协会
  14. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Hong Kong香港爱护动物协会
  15. Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Sarawak
  16. World Animal Protection

Please respond to Lola Webber, Programmes Director, Change for Animals Foundation

请回复至为动物而改变基金会项目总监Lola Webber:



Copied to:

MrWang Jianjun
Shanghai Media Group
298 Weihai Road
The People’s Republic of China


Mr Zong Ming
Shanghai Circus World
No.2266 Rd.Gonghexin
Jing’an District

Mr Luo Shugong
Minister of Culture
Chaoyang District
No. 10 Rd. Beidajie of Chaoyangmen
The People’s Republic of China




[1] The Guidance on Further Strengthening the Regulation of Zoos NO. [2010]172; Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development of the People’s Republic of China www.mohurd.gov.cn26/10/2010《关于进一步加强动物园管理的意见》,中华人民共和国住房与城乡建设部www.mohurd.gov.cn,建城[2010]172号文件,2010年10月26日

[2] http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822%2814%2901443-2?_returnURL=http%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0960982214014432%3Fshowall%3Dtrue

[3] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120322131504.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Latest+Science+News%29

[4] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110428123934.htm

[5] Tan, A., Tan, S.H., Vyas, D., Malaivijitnond, S., Gumert, M.D. There Is More than One Way to Crack an Oyster: Identifying Variation in Burmese Long-Tailed Macaque (Macacafascicularisaurea) Stone-Tool Use. PLOS ONE, 2015; 10 (5): e0124733 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0124733

[6] Symbol addition by monkeys provides evidence for normalized quantity coding, Margaret S. Livingstone, PNAS, 2014. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1404208111

[7] Comparison of discrete ratios by rhesus macaques (Macacamulatta)” Caroline B. Drucker, Marley A. Rossa, Elizabeth M. Brannon. Animal Cognition, Aug. 19, 2015. DOI: 10.1007/s10071-015-0914-9

[8] Mason, G.J. (1991) Stereotypies: a critical review. Animal Behaviour 41: 1015-1037

[9] Cirulli, F., Berry, A., and Alleva, E.(2003) ‘Early disruption of the mother-infant relationship: effects on brain plasticity and implications for psychopathology’, Neuroscience and Biobehavioural Reviews, 27: 73-82

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The Asia For Animals (AfA) Coalition is composed of 16 well-known and respected animal welfare organisations that have a shared focus on improving the welfare of animals in Asia. We are committed to providing support to organisations to help with their campaigns to tackle some of the most pressing animal welfare concerns in the region. Click to see author's profile.

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