Circus animal treatment cruel, unethical

Meredith Comas, Staff Writer

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The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus, once known as “The Greatest Show on Earth,” has officially announced its closing in a press release from Feld Entertainment on Jan. 10. While the company and American families mourn the loss of what for many was a tradition, animal rights activists everywhere, after over 36 years of protesting, are in celebration of the news that the animal cruelty behind the scenes of the show will finally end.

The treatment of circus and other performance animals has long been questioned, specifically with the Ringling Bros. use of bullhooks, chains, ropes and electric prods used for animal training from the time of their youth. Often the animals live in cruel isolation and receive endless abuse from trainers to do a few simple tricks. This immoral treatment all for the cost of a couple minutes of show time for our enjoyment needs to end, and it starts with Ringling.

The Feld company has had a long-standing battle with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who say the circus’ treatment of its animals is cruel and unethical. PETA has hosted a number of protests against the circus, mainly against the company’s treatment of their elephant performers.  

While the Feld company has never denied nor confirmed these claims, in 2011 they did reach a settlement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act, in which they paid a $270,000 fine, the largest civil penalty in the AWA’s four-decade history. If that doesn’t say something, what does? Are we, as human beings, as the world’s future, going to allow companies such as Ringling to get away with such corrupt and villainous behavior? Are we going to tolerate injustice?

In May of 2016, after another grueling legal battle with PETA, Feld Entertainment finally chose to remove elephants from the Ringling Bros’ show and send the animals to a conservation farm in Florida run by the company. The Feld company will continue caring for the retired elephants after the end of the Ring. Bros’ show, and the remaining show animals will be moved to suitable homes, which includes animal conservatories and zoos across the country. The company claims it will make sure the new homes will provide proper care for the animals that must relocate, and ensure they are equipped for animal care, but can we truly place the wellbeing of these animals in the hands of their abuser?

Life for performance animals is usually a life of cruel mistreatment, and while the performance may bring joy to the viewers, is our entertainment really worth the unethical mistreatment of hundreds of animals?

Animal rights activists hope that the animals’ new homes will provide the loving and caring environment they have been deprived of, and that the Animal Welfare Act and the voices of organizations such as PETA will ensure companies such as Ringling will never act in disregard of their furriest performer’s rights again.

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