Animal Studies Journal


The circus had come to town, a small coastal backwater in 1960s South Africa. I was ecstatic but my beloved, visiting grandmother declined the invitation to attend, condemning the cruelty that was the daily experience of the animal performers. The circus, subsequently, was a glum event for me, the spectacle was tawdry, the trainers sadistic, the animals only victims. What a pity that my grandmother did not have access to Tait’s analysis of circus, for it keeps in balance the tension between the glamour of the show and what goes on behind the scenes – the trainers and their different tactics, the performing big cats and elephants with their potential agency and complicity, and how impossible it is to generalise about circus.