By Sandy Mickelson -- Doris Day Animal League -- "Animal Guardian," April-June, 1997
When the circus comes to your town and it features wild animal acts as part of the entertainment, be a voice.
Many people who otherwise are revolted at instances of animal abuse do not recognize the abusiveness of circuses. Circuses provide an excellent opportunity to start an education process (especially for children) that teaches the responsibility and respect we need to show these beautiful animals and voice the position that we do not find anything the least bit entertaining in this brutal exploitation.
What exactly is wrong?
Cramped cages, extreme boredom, deprivation of food, pain and punishment in the form of electronic shocks, loud noises (guns), whipping, muzzling, and even drugs all combine to hone the animal's performance skill, thereby creating a thrill for the audience.
After the big top folds, what then? Circus animals suffer most before and after the show. The end result of living in cramped cages and being chained at the foot for 18-20 hours a day may lead to physical problems -- foot rot, chain sores, organ failure and in some cases, insanity or death. To circus entrepreneurs, these animals are merely disposable inventory -- when they are used-up, they are replaced. There are precious few sanctuaries for these "used-up animals."
George Adamson, husband of Joy Adamson of Born Free fame, said in his autobiography: "A lion is not a lion if it is only free to eat... it deserves to be free to hunt and to choose its own prey; to look for and find its own mate; to fight for and hold its own territory; and to die where it was born -- in the wild. It should have the same rights as we have."
What does it say about human nature when we degrade these magnificent creatures by making them perform tricks for human amusement? More importantly, what are we saying to our children about acceptable behavior from humans? Is it possible that we are, in fact, sanctioning cruelty to living creatures -- even humans?
Consider the case of the caged tiger. There can never be a cage large enough for a tiger. This captive animal has been denied the freedom to roam in an environment that is suitable to its species. It is condemned to a life of hardship, a life without hope. Most of the day is spent isolated in a steel cage -- broken and controlled by his or her captor. The fact that a human is able to train these animals to perform tricks such as jumping through flaming hoops and forcing the animal to open its mouth so that the trainer can put his head between its jaws (exhibiting total control), is beyond reprehensible. To witness this loss of dignity and somehow condone it is a profoundly sad observation of human behavior.
Circus animals do not have a choice. But we do. We can make a statement by not attending, by using the local media to express our views and by letting the sponsors of these circuses know how we feel.
Letting our children know exactly why we say "no" enables them to exhibit responsible stewardship and control regarding the respect and the quality of life these animals deserve and their inherent right to be born, to live and to die according to their own nature.
Many well-meaning people go to circuses. To them, circus animals appear to be happy, contented, well-cared-for and not subjected to cruelty. The eyes only "see" what they want to see, so the suffering goes on.
As a self-imposed voice for the plight of these circus animals, we have an opportunity to succeed in a small part in the preservation of these endangered species on our endangered planet. The next time the circus comes to your town, be a translator. Be a voice for the
ones who can not speak the language of humans,
tiger doomed to die in a small cramped cage,
elephant chained by his bleeding foot,
caged lion pacing side to side in a cage longing for something he may not remember -- freedom. be a voice...