Animals in Magic: Tradition or Cruelty?

For years, magicians have mesmerized audiences with animals like elephants and doves. While some argue it’s ethical with proper care, others question if it’s necessary. With varying opinions and regulations worldwide, the debate continues on the treatment and role of animals in magical performances.

Animals in Magic: Tradition or Cruelty?

Did you know? According to a 2020 survey by YouGov, 65% of people in the UK believe that using animals in circuses should be banned.

The Use of Animals in Magic

For years, magicians have used animals in their acts. It happens on stage; David Copperfield has made elephants disappear. Siegfried & Roy are famous for magicking lions and tigers. And up close, Paul Zenon appeared a mouse from a cup, while David Blaine brought a dead pigeon back to life. It’s visual, it’s unusual, and it grabs attention, but is it right?

Unfortunately, we can’t talk to the animals and get their feedback, and many of those who do use animals will vouch it is fair because they look after their animals well.

Personal Experience

I have never worked with animals, but I have worked closely with a dove manipulator for many years. When not working, he would spend hours and hours with his doves. From what I observed, he treated them with care, ensuring they were clean and well looked after. He would handle his birds and practice moves to ensure they were comfortable and familiar with what would happen within their working routine. He wouldn’t perform any flash productions. I asked him why, and he informed me that many of the methods are cruel.

It was at that moment I realized just how much care he had for these animals. However, according to the RSPCA, “Animals used in performances often suffer from stress and poor living conditions, regardless of the care provided.”

If you are reading this thinking, ‘magicians shouldn’t be performing with animals at all,’ you are not alone with that. Just take solace in the fact that many magicians take care, respect, and pay attention to their animals both on and off stage.

Remember, true magic lies not just in the trick itself but in how we treat all living things.

On the Flip Side

Some magicians neither know how to properly care for their animals nor make the effort to do so. If these magicians, who fail to maintain high standards of animal welfare, were not involved in magic, it is unlikely they would be using animals at all.

Now Let’s Flip the Flip Side

Lance Burton, a renowned magician, is famous for his use of doves in his performances. He has been recognized not only for his magical skills but also for his dedication to the care and well-being of his birds. Burton’s doves are not just props; they are his pets, and he ensures they live in a healthy and comfortable environment. His approach demonstrates that it is possible to incorporate animals into magic acts responsibly and humanely.

Lance Burton - Dove Manipulation.

Did you know? In some countries, the use of animals in circuses is illegal. However, magicians are free to perform with animals provided they adhere to high standards and guidelines to prevent cruelty to animals.


I don’t want to go all woke on this at all nor do I want to spin the narrative in one way or another. But I actually want to state this: If you are using animals in your act, consider that they may not actually be needed at all. Can you replace the routine?

And if you are using animals, make sure you look after them. Keep them healthy, don’t push them physically. Do not hurt, injure, or harm animals in any way. And if you have ever damaged an animal during a performance or rehearsal, are you really suitable to look after the animal?

Have Your Say

What do you think about the use of animals in magic performances? Should magicians find alternatives or continue using animals if they ensure proper care? Share your thoughts in the comments...