I am unsure how to begin this post so I want to preface it by saying I highly encourage every reader to do her or his own research in the topic I will be discussing and come to his or her own conclusions. Far be it from me to claim expertise amidst conflicting opinions. That said, the circus is coming to town this week. Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus begins on Wednesday and has shows through the weekend and tickets are on sale now.
Growing up, I loved going to the circus; seeing the majesty of the animals and the seemingly limitless physical feats they could accomplish was amazing. Also, spending some awe-inspiring time with my parents was an experience I couldn’t have had without the circus. Now that I am a mother, I very much want to share that with my children; I want them to experience the same awe at the abilities of these animals, the breathtaking displays by the human performers, and the majesty of the Big Top. But, it is harder now.
The debate has raged on for decades over the treatment of animals in the care of the circus and, quite honestly, researching background for this story shows two sides to this complex story. PETA and the ASPCA have had a campaign against the circus for their inhumane treatment of animals citing the deaths of several animals over the last twenty years living in the care of the circus. These organizations cite the travel conditions (small entrapments and long distances covered by the travelling circus), the training methods of the circus hands (alleged to be beating, withholding of food, etc.).
However, the circus itself discloses their training methodology as one of positive reinforcement and food treats for a job well done. Additionally, they have created a Center for Elephant Conservation, employ top Veterinarians, travel via train network with individual cars for the animals which are comfortable and humane, and retire animals when they’re too old to continue performing at zoos, conservation centers, and other humane retirement facilities. Additionally, the big news in December of 2012 was the judge’s order for the ASPCA to pay $9.3M in a settlement for the ASPCA’s false statements regarding the ethical treatment of animals by the circus.
Secret videos of training sessions, unproven allegations, a he-said, she-said debate over the treatment of animals has all muddied what was, growing up, an enjoyable experience. I think about common practices for companion pets and their owners including crate-training to housebreak dogs, food treats to teach a dog to bark on command, roll over, or jump through hoops and I wonder how far this training is from the training performed by the circus? I was at the Zoo yesterday, an organization that most would agree provides for the ethical and humane containment of animals, and my husband and I had a five minute long conversation about the emu exhibit; this bird reaches speeds up to 30 miles per hour but the cage was likely only 100 square feet providing not nearly enough space for this bird to run like it would in nature, I am certain. Does this make the Zoo inhumane based on my own unproven allegation?
I think wherever you fall on this issue, make sure you’ve done your research. If you side with the Ringling Brothers and PT Barnum, then tickets are on sale now at Ticketmaster and start at $14.50 with shows on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday at 7:00 pm, three shows Saturday (11:00 am, 3:00 pm, and 7:00 pm) and two Sunday (1:00 pm and 5:00 pm). Click this link here for tickets.
To research background information, check out the following links: PETA, NBC News, ASPCA, and Ringling Brothers. Leave your comments in the field below on your thoughts on the circus, memories, opinions on this debate, concern for the animals, etc. Remember, well-reasoned and argued comments will be posted; those that are inappropriate in nature will not. I’m curious to see where everybody falls; it may help me to decide whether to create these childhood memories with my son or find another outlet.