The circus is coming to town! For most people this arouses either no emotion whatsoever or gets them excited about seeing lions jumping through hoops and elephants standing on big balls. Oh yeah, I think monkeys ride bicycles too. But, for the people who care about the animals’ well-being and take the time to examine what happens behind the scenes, circuses represent an out-dated system of animal abuse and submission for human entertainment. Hell, even some people who eat meat are outraged at what happens to animals in between their time on stage. This may be a little hypocritical since society is hell-bent on doing whatever it can to cause animals pain as long it doesn’t have to watch, but I still think it’s progress.
The scene locally is described in this article, and includes descriptions like:
A few hours before the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus opened a five-day run in St. Louis on Wednesday, a near-naked 18-year-old woman sat on a crowded downtown street corner, chains wrapped around her ankles, to protest what activists allege is the mistreatment of circus elephants. People stopped to stare and snap photos with cell phone cameras. It was 35 degrees in the sun, but a goose-bumped Amy Jannette said she’d sit there, “For as long as I can.”
Circus companies weren’t always receptive to protestors’ outcries:
Ringling Bros., which bills itself as “The Greatest Show on Earth,” was once dismissive of the street theater staged by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. But increasingly the 135-year-old circus is fighting back — part of a contentious battle both over the proper role of animals and for the high ground in public opinion. Ringling Bros. also has been troubled by recent moves in cities like Denver and Chicago to ban or limit its animal acts.
Legal battles in these cities, while not always successful, have done much to garner attention, unlike one Ringling Bros. executive claims:
But the circus faces more battles. Last summer, Ringling Bros. was forced to jump into a Denver ballot issue aimed at barring exotic-animal acts in the Mile High City. The measure failed by nearly 3-to-1.
Earlier this year, a Chicago alderman introduced a measure that would effectively ban elephants in the city. Ringling Bros. is cautiously watching the issue. The circus has a troupe in the city this week. Executives from Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus, are poised to fly to Chicago from Washington, where the company is based.
Ringling Bros. contends that attendance has risen in recent years. “Animal activists have had zero impact on our business,” said Darin Johnson, Ringling Bros. national public relations director.
Unfortunately, the companies have fended off attacks from animals rights groups and even local governments. It’s a slow battle but things are changing, and for the better as this article describes:
Animal rights activists and shows like Cirque du Soleil could help push traditional tent circuses into the history books. Competition and the high cost of doing business have forced some locally based animal trainers to adapt and base their shows here permanently, reducing the need to take the show on the road.
Circus-animal handlers are governed by the USDA, which enforces the federal Animal Welfare Act. Lisa Wathne, captive-exotic-animals specialist with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, credits public awareness with a decline in circus attendance.
PETA encourages visitors to its Web site to support 26 animal-free circuses around the country and lists 32 circuses that it says failed to meet federal standards for the care of animals used in exhibition. The organization’s circus campaign is a multipronged effort that includes asking venues and sponsors not to host circus acts.
“Most if not all circuses that use animals have abysmal records with the USDA,” Wathne said. “Most don’t meet minimum standards. Even if they did, with all we know about wild animals, it’s blatantly apparent that life in the circus can be nothing but misery to them. They spend their lives in extreme confinement, are subject to gruelling travel schedules and are trained through fear and pain to perform tricks they never would in the wild.”
Much more information on circuses and their mistreatment of animals is available at PETA’s Media Center.
Here’s to circuses without animals.