Circuses: Fun For Everyone or Abusive to Animals?

The practice of using animals in circuses has been a source of controversy for years.

Each year the modern day circus rolls into town to the delight of many people who consider the event a right of passage for their children to attend. I can understand the entertainment value of clowns, acrobatic acts, and watching some person being shot out of a cannon, but what I do not understand is our fascination with animals being part of this, well, circus. What happens behind the scenes to animals that travel with the circus has been a source of bitter controversy for years.

Videos chronicling the abuse of the animals have surfaced several times. Animal rights groups have spent years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to end the practice of allowing animals to be treated in this manner. Likewise, circus companies have spent vast amounts of money to save what they consider to be the most popular draw to their shows. CEO’s of these companies proclaim that using force and harmful instruments is a widely held practice and necessary for the control of large animals such as elephants. Several incidents with these wild animals have severely injured or killed trainers and innocent bystanders. I am sure most people would agree that an elephant is better off in the wild than doing tricks in a tent or giving some family a ride in the parking lot.

The origin of the circus in America dates back to the eighteenth century where travelling shows unveiled the newest inventions of the time, exotic animals, and people who were not considered normal for a variety of reasons. Actually, with regard to human oddities, the “freak show” is a uniquely American invention dreamed up by P.T. Barnum. In our modern society, people are not interested in attending a freak show that displays human oddities for entertainment. Can you imagine the lady who got her face torn off by the chimp last year having to endure people staring and whispering at her because she is now severely injured and considered different?

Circuses figured out a long time ago that their audience would be horrified by such practices. So why are we still so interested in seeing exotic animals, or domesticated animals for that matter, being paraded around far from their natural habitat? And why do we condone any type of abusive behavior for the sake of our cheap, tawdry entertainment? Maybe one reason is that people in this country are so conditioned to take everything they see at face value and not even think about what may be happening every day in the life a circus animal. This would take time and diligence and so many of us have neither. If people treated viewing the circus filled with animals forced to perform tricks like they view the circus filled with human oddities, these companies would be forced to remove the animals from their acts.

Once again, the United States is far behind the eight ball compared to other industrialized countries like Sweden, Austria, Finland, and Switzerland which have outlawed using animals in the fashion. Even Costa Rica, India and Bolivia have shown their compassion for animals and outlawed using them in circuses. Why is the United States ALWAYS so far behind in any type of legislation that protects animals from abuse?

There are modern day circus inventions like Cirque De Soleil, which emphasize human acts and whose shows have no animals. In 2007, this company earned at least $ 500 million dollars, so the potential for excellent earnings does exist.

Whether you agree or disagree that the abuse of these animals actually exists, most people would agree that having high standards of care for these animals is very important. Unfortunately, we see examples all the time of large companies circumventing the law to run their business in any fashion they choose. This is why it is so important for people to educate themselves about the treatment of the animals and let the company know how you feel. The following websites contain information about circuses, the debate surrounding use of animals for entertainment, and abuse of animals used in circuses. , ,,


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