Last week I wrote about my first-hand experience travelling in traditional circus shows to debunk a few common myths about animals in the circus. This week, I want to express why I think animals are, and should always be, an integral part of the circus, and look at the darker motivation of groups calling for their banning.
Yes, just like zoos, circuses can play a part in helping to conserve a species! Feld Entertainment (yeah, the ones who have just announced that they’re phasing out elephant acts) have contributed considerable funds and facilities into a captive breeding program for Asian elephants, as well as doing research into the fertility of the species and elephant husbandry. Thy have even worked with the Sri Lankan department of Wildlife to share their research and lessen human impact on elephants in their native habitat. You can read more about their work here: http://www.elephantcenter.com/
I believe that working in conjunction with zoos and wildlife parks in this manner, circuses can play a role in captive breeding and maintaining genetic diversity in Asian elephants as well as other endangered species.
2) Circuses take personal animal experiences to remote areas.
Caring about something such as animal conservation often hinges on having a personal experience with such animals. It’s all very well seeing them on a TV screen, but in order to get people invested emotionally, the experience has to be real and personal. I personally remember having this type of reaction with dolphins at Sea World when I was 12 (yes-I’m also pro dolphinarium).
For those who don’t live in major cities with ready access to zoos, the circus can help provide this interaction. Indeed, for people in regional areas, the circus may be the only means by which thy ever get to see such animals in the flesh. In my opinion, the more people that fall in love with animals in this manner, the better for circuses, zoos, the animals themselves, the wild brethren and the habitat in which they reside.
3) If animals were banned from circus shows tomorrow, where would they go?
In answer to this question, it’s quite common for (often wilfully) ignorant animal rights representatives to bleat “the wild”. Whilst I’ve explained why I believe circus animals to be wonderful ambassadors for their wild counterparts, the truth is, animals bred and kept in captivity for generations and used to daily close human interaction CAN’T simply be released back into the wild. Doing so would be a death sentence for them, as these animals have never learnt to hunt or forage for their own food, avoid predators and hazards found in their natural habitat ect. Another reason this may be the case is that these animals may seek out human interaction, as this is what they are used to. If this happens to be in the form of a local tribe or village, these people invariably and understandably view the animal as a threat and it is often shot.
In many cases (especially relating to Asian Elephants) there simply ISN’T any wild left to go back to. In places like India, Sri Lanka and Thailand, human-elephant conflict occurs more and more, as human agriculture increasingly encroaches on elephant habitat. Of course the elephants always come off second best in this scenario.
4) The circus as a scapegoat
The transient nature of the circus makes it a perfect scapegoat for animal rights organisations wishing to push their own agenda. Such groups rely on sensationalism to gain attention. Employing similar tactics at their other favourite targets, such as racing stables or research facilities, has in the past lead to the police issuing restraint warrants against individuals or the group as a whole. The media gets bored with the subject. The agenda fails to get pushed. As circuses are always moving from location to location, this makes it a perfect outlet for such groups to target their sensationalist tactics, especially in regional areas where local news tends to be slow.
This does not, of course mean that the animals in the circus are ACTUALLY mistreated, only that it provides an easy target for animal rights groups to gain the attention they desire.
It makes me angry when well-meaning animal lovers offer their support to this abhorrent organisation. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals act in a way that is anything but ethical, and their full agenda is downright ludicrous, frequently hypocritical and not something I think any real animal lover wold like to see. PETA may commonly be seen to be championing the rights of abused animals, but they are not so secretly pushing for the removal of ANY interaction between humans and animals. That’s right, PETA would see animals removed not only from circuses, sporting events and research facilities, but from zoos (despite their invaluable conservation work), farms (meat, egg and milk production, wool and leather production, as well as other by-products), assistance animals (such as guide dogs), and pets.
They are “animal lovers” who would have us live in a world without animals.
The hypocrisy of PETA runs even deeper. In 2007, two PETA employees were actually themselves charged with animal cruelty after a court found that they were euthanizing healthy cats and dogs in a US shelter. Pets that were given to them in good faith that they would be cared for and re-homed. According to official records for such shelters (in the US), the organisation’s kill-rate never drops below 75% and climbs as high as 97% for animals taken into its care in any given year. (Source: https://www.petakillsanimals.com/proof-peta-kills/)
Whilst it’s true that not every animal rights group calling for a ban to circus animals is as fanatical and deranged as PETA, whilst doing research for this post I found that upon Google searching “animals in circuses” that the first two pages of results were from such groups. The couple that I read used examples and images that were 40-50 years old and from obscure parts of the world, and were claiming as ‘facts’ information that simply doesn’t tally with my first-hand experience. Instead I recommend anyone wanting further information to check out this site: http://circusthetruth.blogspot.com.au/