I went to the circus (Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey) last night with the kids…
OK, so one of the more unpleasant things about the circus is wading through the PETA and animal right people all with signs about how the elephants are mistreated. The thing is, that they’ve had the same 3 pictures of elephants for the last several years. Let me get this straight, I’m sure there are isolated instances of animal abuse in the circus, but I don’t think its the norm. Elephants, and most of the other circus animals are super intelligent animals, and abused animals don’t perform. They act scared, angry, etc. Now I’m not so naive as to think that harsh treatment doesn’t exist, but I bet that it, in general, is not as PETA would have us believe. (Though travel, etc must be very bad for animals)
What I did wonder about if a different point, how the circus justifies their animal use. As a scientist, I need to justify every single thing I do with my MICE. If it isn’t necessary, I would not be allowed to do it. So how do regulatory bodies overlook the circus? For me, I don’t think that entertainment is a reasonable excuse for animal use. The Ringling Bros. try to tie the circus to conservation, but I don’t really buy that. There are zoos that do a great job at conservation, from increasing awareness, to captive breeding. We don’t really need the circus for that.
So I guess, for me, whatever the animal use in the circus has on the ‘pro’ side of the equation (I think they are pretty close to zero)– the cons far outweigh them. These animals should be donated to zoos, where they can have some modicum of normalcy. Circuses should be prohibited from acquiring more animals. Circuses will survive, as the human acts (at least some of them) are really neat.
I hope that was my last circus where elephants, lions, tigers are features. When my kids want to see those animals, we’ll go to the zoo!