THREE RINGS OF CRUELTY
Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages step right up and witness the amazing feats presented before your very eyes! Grab a bag of peanuts, a stick of cotton candy and find your seats, because you’re going to need them. Since animals do not usually stand on their heads, ride unicycles, or wear glitzy bow-ties, circus workers take it upon themselves to force the animals into submission by utilizing inhumane methods. Circus animals are made to live in substandard conditions where they have little access to food, water, and virtually no space to run and play. A circus is the epitome of innocence, or is it? Because behind the circus’ merry exterior lies a world of cruelty where animals ranging from the exotic to domestic are being needlessly exploited and abused by their trainers.
The circus industry is selective in the nature of information it releases to the public, thereby maintaining its facade of innocence. Between May of 1993 and August of2001 there have been over fifty accounts of animal abuse occurring in Ringling Bros, and Barnum & Bailey Circus. During this time, seventeen elephants died or were euthanized. Out of those seventeen, only five deaths were announced to the general public (PETA, Ringling Bros, and Barnum & Bailey Circus Fact Sheet, np). This is the same public who spends thousands of dollars each year to attend and keep shows like this in business. Yet the circus is reluctant in divulging any information regarding the very things these people pay money to see. Perhaps the circus believes these deaths are private matters, not important enough to mention. It is more likely though, to assume that it fears what may happen if the news of these deaths were to spread further. There would undoubtedly be a drop in attendance, which would result in a drop in revenue. If not enough money is brought into the circus, it has no choice but to close. Instead of spending money to maintain the animals’ well-being the cash is used to keep the circus afloat and on the road. After being sued for animal abuse in July of 2000, Catherine Ort-Mabry, a spokeswoman from Ringling stated, “The show provides its animals with the highest standards of care.” (ABP news, Circus Sued for Animal Abuse, np) Her statement is a laughable fallacy when examining the high mortality rate in the elephants in circuses is due to captivity induced foot problems and arthritis. In a string of false statements, her comment was just another lie meant to mislead potential audience members into believing the circus is a haven for animals, where they are treated with compassion and respect. The public is deceived into believing they are viewing a harmless show, when in reality they are supporting a stunning display of animal torture.
The plight of circus animals begins in transportation. Exotic cats such as tigers are housed in small crates. These crates are comparable to the carriers a person would put their domestic cat in, the only difference being the tiger crates are proportionally smaller. According to The World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia, Mac OS X 2002 Edition, “Most adult tigers weigh between 420 and 300 pounds. They are eight to nine feet long, including a three foot tail… “While on tour these large animals are kept in holding pens where they can barely turn around, let alone run or play. Often times these carriers are badly ventilated and while the circus is on the road, big cats, elephants and other creatures are left to lie for hours in their cages with little water and next to no stimulation until they are forced to perform again. The World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia also states, “Most [circuses] travel about seven months, while the railroad circuses stay on tour almost eleven…” Traveling for close to a year in tiny holding pens is nothing short of a tragedy for these beasts considering they are meant to run, swim, and hunt in their natural habitat. Without some sort of physical stimulation, these animals will get bored and depressed. Depression leads to sickness, which lead to death. In some cases animals aren’t even able to breathe, let alone move. An inspector from the USDA noted that, “the transport trailer compartment was not large enough for all the goats and sheep, that the trailer needed more ventilation…” (ASPCA, ASPCA: USDA Documents Provide Proof of Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus Abuse of Elephants, np) Just thinking about the conditions inside a penis sickening. Consider being on the road for twelve hours nonstop, there are too many animals in each holding area so after they defecate and end up trampling all over their own feces. This can lead to innumerable amounts of diseases, all of which could be picked up by the animals and passed on to humans in a circus “Petting Zoo ” The weather conditions on the road pose a problem for many of the animals as well. It is unrealistic to assume that the circuses would spend money to create holding carts custom made for each type of animal being featured in their shows, especially considering the animals they house are so diverse. For instance, assume a circus is traveling through Montana in January. A yak, which thrives in cold dry climates, is content while a zebra may be shivering in the cold. This constant change causes stress in the animal’s lives making them act unpredictable and restless. Following a “the show must go on” mentality, some circuses may not stop even to allow animals to exercise for fear they may show up late for a gig. Transporting animals on a consistent basis is unhealthy and causes undue stress for them.
If being carted around 330 days of the year wasn’t bad enough, animals in the circus are also coerced into performing through various forms of abuse. The most blatant abuse is through the use of so-called “Tools of the Trade.” These “tools” include, ankuses or bullhooks, whips, rope, electrical shock, sticks, muzzles, metal pipes, baseball bats, chains, axe handles and firearms. Trainers justify the use of these by saying the animals won’t perform if they don’t learn whose boss. Once the animal has been beaten into submission, it will do what it is told to do for fear of being severely punished. The worst “tool” is arguably the ankus or bullhook. The bullhook is a stick with a sharp staff-like hook at its end. Trainers have been known to jab the sharp end into elephants tender skin located in the mouth and behind the ears repeatedly for minor mistakes in performance. The flat end of the bullhook is used like a bat, swung at the elephants’ knees and toes. Perhaps the most disturbing example of abuse is inflicted upon the bears. Trainers will break the noses of bears by beating them with a stick or pipe, believing this makes them submissive. The paws of bears are also burnt while forcing them to perform unnatural acts like stand on their heads or ride a bicycle. No animal should be made to wear silly clothes, dance, or climb something for fear of being beaten. If animals could speak, they would assuredly protest being involved in the circus. Imagine what it would be like if the circus were to show their audience what they really do with the animals.
In Ring One we have a new show called Beat up a Bear. Now this little guy is only a few years old, but what a spirit he has. Our fabulous trainer will show you his techniques in bear submission. Keep an eye out for the breaking of the bear’s nose, it will be bloody exciting. Oh! And don’t forget he will also be burning the little fella’s paws… be sure to look for steam and listen for a scream! In Ring Two we have our Asian Elephant Abuse-a-thon! That’s right, here today, right before your very eyes you get to see a baby elephant taken from its mother at a young age, elephants being chained to posts… don’t worry everyone, they’re tied up VERY tight. Now, if you all scream real loud we’ll show you how we beat the elephants with bats and skewer them with hooks! Those of you in the front… I hope you have your rain slickers, this one are gonna be messy. Now starring in Ring Three a goat! Yes folks a goat, but not just any ol’ goat, this lovable farm animal with an IQ a little less than a human toddler has been mutilated and his horns have been manipulated to grow in the center of his forehead. Today, we feature him as a unicorn!!
Unthinkable, sad, disgusting, and all are true. These are just some events listed on PETA and the ASPCA’s web sites documenting the way animals are treated. And what of the performers who can no longer put on a show due to old age, or temper? Noted primologist Jane Goodall answered this in a letter to Mayor Bill Bogaard of the City of Pasadena saying, “they will end up in medical research laboratories — or be quietly euthanized,” (Goodall, Letter to Mayor, np) They are tortured even in death. An animal shouldn’t be killed if it is no longer willing or able to perform certain tricks. The pain inflicted upon these creatures isn’t a training technique as much as it is a means of torture and breaking the animal’s spirit.
As horrible as these acts are, many adults still pay to go see the circus. They bring their children, buy food, and for the most part have a good time. Why is this? Well, the main reason is a lack of knowledge about the way the circus handles and cares for its animals. To the public, circuses maintain “a relationship built on respect, trust, affection and uncompromising care” with the animals it employs. “Trainers teach animals routines that showcase their physical abilities and beauty, as well as their distinctive behaviors.” (Ringling Bros., Animal Care.) Would a bear in the wild ride around on a tricycle? No. Would a chimp willingly don a dress and apron? No. Would a white tiger jump through hoops of fire for fun? No. The acts which trainers force the animals to do are actually anything but natural and distinctive to their behavior. They also argue that it is better for animals to live in the circus then face the treachors of the wild. This may sound true, but think about it. Animals are ruled by their instincts. A tiger’s instinct is to hunt, not be fed raw meat on a stick. No wild animal would want to sit around in a small pen for over twelve hours a day. Any animal would prefer to live free, in its natural environment, then live in the: confinement of a circus.
All animal acts should be outlawed, and if not done lawfully, should be boycotted. Multiple campaigns have been launched in attempts to shut down and ban circuses that include live animals in their acts. Cities such as Pasadena, Ca.; Stamford, Cn.; Hollywood, Fl.; Braintree, Ma.; Boulder, Co.; Estes Park, Co.; and Redmond, Wa., have already banned all types of animal acts. This decision came after various reports of cruelty and abuse occurring behind the scenes of circuses was made public, and through multiple protesting efforts. These cities seem to have the right idea. By banning animal shows, they have created one less venue for the circuses. One less venue translates into less money and a chance that the circus or show will go out of business, or be forced it change its ways.
Circuses are concentration camps for animals. The circus industry only chooses good things to tell the public, so its audiences are fooled into believing they are kind people, even though proved otherwise. Animals are housed in conditions which are not suited for their needs and therefore suffer from physical and mental problems. All circus animals are being abused, from alpacas to zebras. The only way to end their suffering is to stop attending the circus and educate those around you about what really goes on at the circus.