It’s that time again ladies and gentlemen… The circus is back in town.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey have made their way to Fairfax for the “Greatest Show on Earth” to wow us with their abundant entertainment devices: from the adventurous feats of flying performers to (my personal favorites subjects) the lions, tigers, and elephants (oh my!).
Oh, the animals: let’s talk about these circus captives for a moment.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey have been under a lot of fire regarding allegations of animal cruelty and abuse. It seems like they thought that they would originally be able to avoid this scrutiny of their animal care by opening up the Center for Elephant Conservation in 1995, rescuing their performance dogs from animal shelters, and retiring their tigers to Big Cat Rescue. But animal rights organizations were not to be deterred from finding out the truth about what actually happens behind the scenes.
PETA published an article called “12 Things Ringling Doesn’t Want You to Know” which focused on the treatment of the elephants specifically, calling out the circus for utilizing inhumane devices for training purposes, accusing them of physically beating these animals and exposing the terrible living conditions to which they are subject.
In 2014, as an update to this article, PETA went on to accuse the circus of possibly writing their own inspections. PETA got ahold of an inspection report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that stated the temperature inside of the boxcars housing the elephants was as hot as 95.3 degrees. Yet, Ringling Bros. ended up with a clean report after the USDA retracted this original report, which is nothing short of suspicion and leaves us with a lot of blanks to fill in.
PETA got ahold of an inspection report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that stated the temperature inside of the boxcars housing the elephants was as hot as 95.3 degrees.
There is photo and video evidence that the elephants’ traveling conditions are severely substandard. They are extremely confined for their size, chained for hours without the ability to lie down or move around in areas that lack windows and fresh air. Not to mention the existing proof of one of the elephants having covered up wounds that looked like they were made by a bull hook, suggesting physical abuse.
Finally last year, the parent company of the circus, Feld Entertainment, decided that they would stop using elephants in their shows by May 2016.
They are planning on sending the elephants being used in current shows to the Center for Elephant Conservation. While Feld says that this change is because of local laws about using elephants in entertainment shows and not a result of the animals rights allegations against them from various groups, it is clear PETA and others have made influenced the decision.
However, elephants are not the only animals in the circus.
Removing elephants from these unfortunate circumstances is only the beginning of the fight for animal welfare in this entertainment industry. Many other wild animals are utilized in these shows and possibly also being treated in cruel manners. Lion and tiger cubs get taken from their mothers before they should be in order to make them more submissive toward humans. Their feeding habits are questionable as well as their living conditions. The Big Cat Rescue states that approximately 30 lions or tigers are destroyed because they are not trainable, according to the circus’ standards.
So before you buy tickets for the cruelest show on Earth, to enjoy the tricks and talents of these animals, remember what happens when the curtain closes.