By Rosalie Tirella
When I was a little girl, my mom took me to see a traveling circus. I don’t know in which parking lot/hall the circus had tamped down its stakes and put up its tents, but I do recall it was in Worcester. I remember walking into the saw-dusty smelling circus tent. I remember running over to see a camel – excited about seeing an exotic animal I had read about in school. But low and behold! The camel was chained – his head in shackles – close to the ground. Blame it on my sweet mom, who once freed a “flying” grasshopper I had caught and tied a red string to (with her new manicure scissors she gingerly cut the thread I had wrapped around its skinny brown body and up it “flew” over our third-floor porch railing, back into our yard). Or blame it on the Old World Catholicism that seemed to envelop the Green Island apartment I grew up in – a household run by my Polish immigrant grandmother, “Babci,” who (to me) seemed as formidable as Moses. Whatever the reason, killing, tormenting, even chaining animals was definitely forbidden in my world.
So, it should have come as no surprise to my sweet mom that her little girl would burst into tears and run straight out of the circus tent, screaming her head off at the sight of the distressed camel. My mother never took my two sisters or me to see a live animal act again.
Years later, as a young woman who had just moved back to Worcester after living in Western Massachusetts for several years, I stumbled upon the Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey Circus. This time it was the elephants – it was before their infamous “march” down Worcester’s Southbridge Street, pre-show time. They were all corralled in a big fenced in area. I parked my car near by and walked up to get a closer look, obviously forgetting about my childhood camel trauma. Hey, I was a grown-up now, living in the real world. A world in which wars are waged and children go hungry every day. Well, if you’re a regular reader of InCity Times, you won’t be surprised when I tell you: Upon seeing the penned in elephants – there must have been 10 or more – the adult Rosalie began to bawl like a baby and ran directly to her car.
That was because as I looked at the tired old circus elephants, whose scaly skin hung off them – and the wrinkly baby elephant, who looked as ancient, dusty and weary as the adult elephants she traveled with – I knew this: it was morally repugnant to force these elephants – as if they were slaves – to march down the hard concrete of our city. A city I know to be filled with wonderful, compassionate people. People who I believe would be as appalled as I had been, if they thought about the situation/were educated.
It is wrong to take a wild animal whose natural habitat consists of miles and miles of grassy African or Indian terrain, an animal so intelligent, it mourns its dead and upon reunification with a long-lost sibling recognizes it with deep cries of joy, and turn it into a trapped, malnourished, depressed living being.Who is Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey circus – or, for that matter, any circus with animal “acts” (because the animals ARE being forced to “act” in unnatural ways) – to take an animal and degrade and pervert its life in every way imaginable? Accomplished, of course, with whips, chains and steel bars with talons and large metal hooks at their ends. Don’t you believe that the circus is the greatest show on earth! It is, for the animals, the biggest concentration camp on earth!
We must put an end to the use of wild animals in circuses! We must do it today! Just as Saint Francis saw God in the birds and animals of the field, so must we place our metaphorical hands on the heart-sick circus elephant and tell it it is beautiful and FREE. Wild animals must be allowed to live the life God, or the universal life force, meant for them to live.
Studies have shown that most animals in zoos – especially the big cats – have nervous breakdowns in captivity. Real, honest to God nervous breakdowns just like people do when they are under unrelenting stress and duress. All living things can go mad… .
So why are we surprised when we read in the papers that a zoo keeper is mauled to death by a lion? Or a circus trainer is stomped to death by one of the elephants?
Please, dear readers, take Steve Baer’s InCity Times circus cover story to heart (it starts on page 8). Read it and learn. Then go out and do your own research. Learn about elephants rescued from petting zoos or read about elephant sanctuaries set up for abused/rescued elephants. Learn more about lions and tigers and bears! Then boycott the circus that is to come to Worcester, our town – Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey Circus. Then call your Worcester city councilor (or the city manager) and tell him/her to have the Worcester City Council ban all exotic animal acts from Worcester. (They can do this!) Mind you, this does not include the circuses that are animal-less, animal-free. Cirque de Soleil is a wonderful example of a humane, exciting, animalless circus filled with amazing human acrobats who willingly perform amazing acrobatic and dare devil feats for cheering audiences. The keys words here are WILLINGLY PERFORM. There are tons of kid (and adult) friendly shows out there – puppeteers, go-cart racing, to name a few – that can and will come to Worcester, if Mayor Konnie Lukes and colleagues decide to banish animal slavery from our funky (and I believe) progressive city.
Let’s have Worcester join Revere and Northampton and the other American cities and towns that have banned exotic animal acts from their communities. These communities have decided family friendly fare need not include showcasing declawed bears with hooks through their noses – bears that often receive electrical shocks to have them up on their hind legs dancing.
And no, banning the Ringling Brothers Circus will not send Worcester’s economy into the crapper (the closing of our many factories accomplished that years ago). And if Worcester starts talking to the Cirque du Soleil folks this year, we can get them to take the place of Ringling Bros next spring. There will still be economic spin-off for Worcester.
So do the right thing! Help ban exotic animal acts from the City of Worcester!
If you would like to help keep wild animals off Worcester stages, please join us in our campaign! E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 508.798.9081 for more information. You can work with ICT contributing writer Steve Baer and the rest of us at InCity Times to make our city a better place for everybody – wild animals, included.