Animal rights, a controversial topic that has been present since 1975, continues to be present today in forms of entertainment. Circuses for example have been known for the constant mistreatment and abuse of their animals. With most animals being housed in inadequate living spaces, or put through intense training procedures. Others also believe that circuses are helping animals, making their lives better by saving them from endangerment or creating a potential breeding program.
As some of these may seem ideal, most people aren’t seeing the picture at a larger scale. Animals aren’t only being hurt physically, but mentally as well. And due to the immense increase of animals in captivity, humans and animals are being put in danger through abuse, injuries, and other circumstances. If circuses were to be banned, animals and humans would both be healthier and safer throughout their lifetime.
Some might think that circuses are protecting animals, by keeping them safe from what could potentially threaten them in their natural habitat.“Sometimes an animal gets wounded or might not be able to survive the harsh conditions in the wild during certain seasons. By placing them in shelters in the circus, they will be able to recover from their injuries and be protected” (Lombardo).Or providing people with an unforgettable form of happiness. Circuses are even going as far to say that it is a “rite of passage”. Strehlov states that “Attending a circus event is a rite of passage for many youngsters.Generations of people have brought their children to see wild circus animals.
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Global awareness of animal rights and wildlife conservation efforts are changing the sentimental feelings the circus once provoked.” Showing how the emotions that people once felt while going to the circus are changing as an increasing amount of animals are being put in danger and are hurting both physically and mentally. With hardly any help to assist in this never ending struggle. The argument of circuses remaining open because of the emotional attachment seems illogical in that this argument only looks at the perspective of the people and not the animals who are being mistreated the most.
Allowing circuses to remain open puts animals in a more hostile and dangerous environment than their own natural habitat. The constant mistreatment and abuse of animals is shown in multiple accounts from various circuses and international alliances. The Animal Alliance of Canada states that “animals used in the circus are often housed inadequately, and are subjected to cruel and abuse treatment, and experience a poor quality of life” ( Animal Alliance of Canada 200). Which is important because it gives a small insight to what is being hidden beyond the surface without the use of specific examples.
Animals in the circus were also mistreated through their extensive training procedures. Often getting beaten or whipped for not complying with certain tricks. For example, “the baby elephants are taken from their mothers and put into violent training sessions to learn how to perform tricks. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is the largest animal rights organization in the world and recently let out video footage from an investigation which showed that elephants used by Ringling were whipped, beaten and yanked by bullhooks, which is a weapon that resembles a fireplace poker and has a sharp steel hook on one end, behind the curtains before performing” (Laudanno).
Further proving how circuses are an inadequate living space for animals and that the only way to help them is by getting rid of circuses completely. There’s also evidence of animal abuse in some of the larger circuses. The Ringling Bros for example is one of the circuses in which animal abuse and mistreatment is seen the most. “A 2-year-old Asian elephant, Mike, who was the youngest elephant being held at Ringling Bros. died from elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus. This disease is killing more and more circus elephants and has been connected to the stress of captivity” (Laudanno).
This quote showcases a different side of animal mistreatment, in that animals aren’t only suffering physically,but of mental harm and stress as well. Making their imprisonment seem even more tragic and heart wrenching, and that the only way to soothe their pain is through the removal of the circus. A condition found in animals known as “zoochosis” is “The mental stress and frustration exhibited in circus animals in captivity” (Good.) Most animals who have this condition are essentially homesick and miss their natural habitat, which causes them to shut down both mentally and physically.
With signs such “stereotypic rocking back and forth, incessant grooming, pacing, and self-destructive behaviors including refusal to eat, and self-harm” (Good.) showing how these poor creatures are hurting more than the general public realizes. An increasing amount of animals are continuously being subjected to these harsh environments, and many are still refusing to see the truth of what really happens in the circus.
Circuses have become such a great danger to animals that laws (Federal) are being enforced to keep them safe. Various states have placed laws that help protect these animals rights but are still not enough in the end.“Pennsylvania requires that certain permit fees be paid by the circus for each animal brought into the state, and a circus must obtain a general permit and pay a fee for it. Circuses and menageries are also liable for any harm to the public from wild attacks or danger” (Niedrich).
As small as it may be, this law still has a large impact on animals and how they’re being protected. By making it harder to bring animals in, there is less of a risk of them being captured and mistreated. However this law doesn’t actually prohibit animals from being taken in to the circus, it just makes them harder to obtain. Which is evidently unsatisfactory on the animals side in that nothing is actually stopping them from being captured.
The Lacey act is an law that does a substantial job of restricting the circus.“The Lacey Act [ 95 ] prohibits the import, export, transportation, sale, receipt, acquisition, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce of any live animal of any prohibited wildlife species. However, the Lacey Act specifically exempts circuses from regulation and defers to their regulation under the AWA” (Niedrich).
This law essentially bans animal usage and presumably restricts circuses completely. But doesn’t actually regulate the circus and has no way to actually see if they’re complying with these rules. Conveying how even laws are struggling to regulate circuses and stop them from endangering animals. “And as it stands, only one federal law stands that regulates the circus but has little to no effect. The new Animal Welfare Act 1999 came into effect on January 1, 2000, [ 134 ] and governs “research, testing or teaching” on or with animals, and other standards of care. [ 135 ]
Now, New Zealand now has some of the most comprehensive animal welfare legislation in the world, taking into account the behavioral requirements of individual and groups of animals and their physical, psychological, reproductive and other requirements. [ 136 ] Unfortunately, as with many pieces of animal welfare legislation, the Act’s provisions have almost no substantial effect, only a limited policy value” (Animal Welfare Act 1999). The only federal law that regulates the circus still doesn’t fully affect it, proving how circuses a true danger to animals and how laws themselves still can’t fully keep animals safe.
Circuses using wild animals not only puts animals in danger but the people who view and work with them as well. Multiple accounts of injuries in humans have to do with the stress.
The circus was originally a place known for providing happiness and joy to the people who attend it. And seemed to have no flaws at the start. But after looking at it from a different perspective,most may agree that circuses aren’t as picture perfect as they seem. With the constant abuse and mistreatment of animals who perform there.
Keeping circuses open for the entertainment factor may seem like the best option, however the circus isn’t the only form of entertainment that involves animals. Which proves that the removal of circuses would not have as large of an impact on people as many would initially think. And during the process, we are protecting animals from things that could potentially hurt them in the future, and are moving one step closer to giving animals the rights that they deserve.
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