By Jennifer O’Connor
The trend is undeniable: The days of hauling animals around and hurting them in the name of entertainment are quickly coming to an end. Winnipeg is the latest municipality to slam the door shut on circuses using exotic animals. Mayor Sam Katz and the Winnipeg City Council made it clear that they will no longer tolerate circus cruelty.
All around the world, cities and entire countries are banning exotic-animal circus acts. Austria, Bolivia, Colombia, Greece, Paraguay and Peru have done so already, and others, including Britain and Scotland, are on the verge of doing so. Besides outright bans, many cities are saying no to the tools that circuses use to inflict pain, such as the bullhook—a heavy baton with a sharp metal hook on the end that can rip and tear elephants’ skin—and electric prods. Since circuses control animals with these cruel devices—or more accurately, attempt to control them, since so many have run amok—such prohibitions effectively keep the animals out.
Only a decade or so ago, the fabulous Cirque du Soleil was one of the few alternative circuses around. But the demand for cruelty-free entertainment has skyrocketed, and now there are more than a dozen vibrant, innovative productions touring North America that don’t exploit animals. Even consummate huckster P.T. Barnum couldn’t convince today’s informed public that beating animals and keeping them in cages and chains from birth to death is acceptable.
The empirical evidence of what life is like for animals in circuses is undeniable and readily available to the public. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, for example, paid a record $270,000 to settle multiple violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. At least 30 elephants have died while in Ringling’s hands since 1992.
Former employees of Ringling have come forward to report egregious abuses, including forcibly removing baby elephants from their frantic mothers, tying them down by all four legs, and slamming them to the ground, surrounded by “trainers” wielding bullhooks and electric hotshots. Click to continue »