Circuses: Beyond The Glitter And PagentryBillboards and notices announce that the circus is coming to various places on the island, and actually has been to some areas. Advertising statements say that local families are in for a real treat. Perhaps human audiences are in for a treat but I express a considerable amount of doubt as to whether the animal performers consider the whole thing a treat.
Audiences see the glitter and pageantry of the show. They are unaware of what goes on behind the scenes at some circuses. They do not know ,and in many cases do not want to know. Behind the scenes, things are not always so pretty. Pain and stress is often the daily companion for many animal entertainers.
Many people are unaware of the suffering inflicted upon animals who are exploited for our entertainment. Animals who are used in carnivals, circuses, rodeos, animals races, etc., are often denied comfort and freedom. Their basic needs and desires are ignored. Animals are taught to perform unnatural acts, or tricks, by learning that failure to do so will result in physical punishment.
Animals used in travelling shows and menageries are often subjected to severe abuses to provide entertainment at county fairs, shopping malls, theme parks, and stadiums. The variations of entertainment are limited only by the imagination of exhibitors out for an easy dollar.
As human consciousness grows, more people are learning to support entertainment which does net involve animal acts. In England local councils have banned animal acts from public lands. In Finland use of elephants in circuses is illegal. In the U.S. demonstraters are drawing attention to the plight of animal actors who have no voice to protest. In many parts of Canada charges have been brought against some circus owners.
Here are some abuses frequently perpetrated by circus owners:
Consider the following:
- Animals are often without proper veterinary care. They are listless, have diarrhea, are underweight, have sores and missing hair, are lame or self mutilated.
- Cages are too small.
- Cages are unsanitary.
- Enough food and water is not always provided.
- Animals are confined to tiny transport cages. Exhibition animals endure the stress of being trucked (and bound and slammed around) for hundreds of miles at a time.
- Often without heating and air conditioning, animals suffer from temperature extremes.
- Without exercise, they became listless and susceptible to illness.
- Animals are often trained with the use of electric prods, whips, tight collars, and muzzles.
- Even under the most ideal conditions, animals are expected to leam and perform unnatural acts in an unnatural environment.
Everyone loves a circus, right? I am sure if the animal performers who are exploited for our entertainment could be consulted, their reply would be negative.
- The Moscow Circus puts its animals, including a pregnant tiger, through a gruelling 17 day ocean voyage in the hold of a ship to bring them to this continent. The Moscow Circus Dancing Brown Bears weigh up to 300 pounds but are confined for as many as 20 hours per day in cages measuring 3 by 5 by 4 feet. They are trained using electric prods. whips, tight collars, and muzzles. They have been left without water in their cages in the summer heat.
- Since 1951, Tim Rivers has travelled the U.S. with his high diving mules act. The act includes 3 mules, a pony, a dog, and a capuchin monkey. The mules climb a 30 foot ramp, then dive into a pool containing six feet of water, sometimes with other animals chained to their backs. The animals hit the water at 38 mph, resulting in 1500 pounds of pressure per square inch against their bodies. The animals climb out of the water visibly disoriented, and stumbling as they walk.
- It was 99 degrees farenheit at the Hybla Valley Shopping Center in Virginia when a humane officer released more than 40 animals from the stifling heat inside metal trailers. Stuffed into a single trailer were a baby African elephant, eight Shetland ponies, 17 goats and sheep, a zebra, a llama, 2 ostriches, a minature horse, a calf, an exotic turtle, five oriental ducks, and a Burmese python. The elephants were found to be suffering from lack of adequate food, water and space. Nora, the baby elephant, was 300 pounds underweight, her backbone protruding under her skin. The Wonder Zoo traveling animal show had come to Fairfax Virginnia. The zoo owner gave up ownership of the animals rather than go to court for violating the law.
The animals are treated as a mere means to a human end. Sometimes in the case of housing and transporting performing animals, the animals are subjected to severe and often protracted deprivation. They are often expected to mimic human behaviour (ride bikes, jump through hoops, balance on balls, and wrestle) and are punished for failure.
When observing the synchronized, meticulous, often faultless performance of animals, members of the viewing audience should ask themselves this: What did this animal go through? How much stress, pain, prodding, and beatings did it endure, to learn and be able to perform this act?
When we patronize these forms of entertainment, we support the commercial interests that reduce the value of animals to the status of purely instrumental - more often than not at a cost of great stress and pain for them.
We do not have to train, exploit, out-wit, out-wrestle, or out-muscle animals . . . or support those who make a profit from doing so. The beauty of the animal world can be appreciated without them dancing on balls for our pleasure.
We have come a long way from the days of bear baiting in the Middle and Dark Ages . . . or have we?