Saturday, April 27, 2013

Stop funding abuse. Please.

Six of my facebook friends took their kids or grandkids to the circus this weekend. We had a circus in town a few weeks ago (the Kosair Shrine Circus, performed by George Carden Circus International), but this weekend, it's the big one- Ringling Bros. I went to the circus a few times when I was a kid. I remember thinking it was OK, but I'd rather go to the zoo- the area where the performers and animals were was really far away. The only thing I saw up close was a clown, and that's no fun (sorry, clowns.) A few years ago I read a book about animals in the entertainment industry. I'm sorry to say that I don't remember what it was called, but I was intrigued by the things the book said about the circus. I decided to do some more research, and I was horrified by the things that I learned. I am not a radical animal rights activist. I am not one of those people that "liberates" lobsters from sea food restaurants or whatever. I'm not a vegan (I love cheese too much...) I don't have an agenda. I just have a problem with suffering. I don't like seeing people get hurt, or knowing that they're hurting. It's the same way with animals. I've had pets all my life, and I would never think to financially support a method of "entertainment" that hurts people or animals. I won't see a boxing match. I won't attend a dog fight. I won't pay to support something that hurts someone else.

Ringling Bros. has been repeatedly fined by the federal government for failure to provide adequate care for their animals. Circus elephants are trained by chaining babies to the ground, to teach them who's in charge. They are beaten, both as babies and as adults, with metal hooks on poles (called bullhooks), to force them to perform abnormal behaviors. Electric shock prods are also used. If you weighed several thousand pounds, and God designed you to walk on all fours, don't you think it would be painful to be forced to balance on two feet, or even one foot, just for applause? Circuses employ people to cover training wounds with makeup, but you can still see the marks on their thick hides. Elephants are hard-wired to roam. They travel miles and miles with their herd (a very tight-knit group) every day. In the circus, the only time they get to move around is when they're performing, or when they're confined to pens just outside the circus area. Then, when it's time to move on, they're crammed back into train cars and trailers, again in chains. Elephants are highly intelligent, emotional animals that form close bonds with their family members. Baby elephants are separated from their mothers (if they're wild caught, their mothers are almost always murdered) and spend their years traveling with a rotating group of animals. Wild elephants live twice as long as captive ones. An elephant in the wild can live to be 70 or 80 years old. A captive elephant is considered ancient if it reaches 50. And the animals used in circuses are not always passive about the abuse they suffer. They don't like being confined for our entertainment. That's not what they were meant to do. So sometimes they fight back. Sometimes elephants and other circus animals try to get away, injuring people in the process. They are almost always destroyed, sometimes violently (like with guns.)

I understand that many people are still unaware of what exactly goes into the training and handling of these animals. I know that if you're thinking about entertainment, maybe you're not immediately going to be aware of the fact that these animals travel around the country in cramped, filthy conditions, in trailers and trains that rarely have air conditioning or heat, that they are tied down and chained before being let out to suffer physical abuse in preparation for a show. That's why I try to tell as many people as I can about these facts. And that's what they are- facts. I'm sure that there are people who work for circuses that like animals, and that may love the animals involved like pets. But we aren't allowed to treat dogs and cats this way. In some areas, you can get fined for leaving a dog in a hot car. Mitt Romney took a lot of flak when it was revealed that his family improperly transported their pet dog on a vacation during the last presidential election cycle. And you can bet your bottom dollar that those pet training centers at PetSmart and other pet stores aren't using electric prods or bullhooks to teach your dogs better behavior. You could go to jail for treating a cat or a dog that way. And yet, hundreds of people are shelling out $38-$100 per ticket to go to the circus this weekend in my town. I don't get it. It makes my stomach hurt. It makes me cry. Every time the circus comes to town, I try to share at least some of this information with my friends on social media websites, and I do think it is making a small difference. Several people have told me that they were not aware of what goes on behind the scenes at animal circuses. But every time the circus comes to town, there are still people I know that take their kids to the circus. Many of these people have pets, some of which are very pampered. Why are some animals worthy of better treatment than others?

I think circuses are gross. They disgust me. And I truly think that, just like any other abuse of creation, they make God sad. Please stop going to circuses that use animal performers. There are plenty of good circuses that provide lots of entertainment with just people performers- who are, I might add, paid, free to see their families and friends, and avoid being bludgeoned with bullhooks.

Oh his way to the next show

How a circus elephant spends its free time in your lovely city

Training. Notice how the metal hook is embedded in this poor baby's thick skin.

Dragged to the ground, learning to be submissive

Video footage of Ringling Bros. trainers beating and whipping elephants before a show. They're just standing in the backstage area, waiting to go in, wearing their Ringling headdresses, and they are slapped around the body and in the face with leather riding crops and metal hooks. I realize that PETA does some pretty crazy stuff, and I would never offer a blanket endorsement of their organization, but the footage speaks for itself. 

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