The Worcester City Council and Ringling Bros. Circus


By Rosalie Tirella

The above photo says it all, doesn’t it? Underscores the cruelty/absurdity of wild animal acts in circuses. Wild, undomesticated, man-eating big cats weighing hundreds of pounds, standing on their tippy toes – for its trainer, for you, for your kids – for YOUR entertainment. Tigers living in India or Africa, where they roam hundreds of miles to hunt, eat, mate, raise their young ones brought to cities like Worcester on trains, baking in the summer in their box cars, freezing in the winter in their boxcars. Tigers and other large predators keep ecosystems in check … . They are gorgeous … . They are wild creatures that belong in the wild. But we keep them in tiny cages and make idiots of them … literally make them mad/insane.

Why does America do this to beautiful wild things? (Circuses showcasing wild animals are banned in the European Union.) Why does America continue to do what we have been doing since the white man enslaved black men, women and children and killed all the Indians? Why do we hold onto this last bit of American brutality? Why do we enslave? Why do we refuse to see the truth: that these animals do not belong anywhere near Worcester or humans – forced/tortured to do stupid tricks. Hate to admit this, but there is poetic justice every time one of the performing tigers or lions or elephants, at wit’s end, mauls/kills his/her trainer. “Turns on them” – as if the animals were ever on our side.  Of course, then, we acknowledge the lion’s/tiger’s wildness and kill it immediately.

How does Worcester fit into all this?

A few years ago a friend and I went to visit then Mayor Joe O’Brien. I liked Joe being mayor of Worcester, thought he was incredibly sensitive to people and animals. I believed if Worcester were to follow in the steps of other Mass citites like Northampton, Cambridge and heck, even Revere, and BAN wild animal acts from our fair city, now would be the time to strike. So many people in Worcester love and care for abused animals or adopt homeless dogs from animal shelters or feed feral cat colonies! (I have done all of this and maintained two feral cat colonies for TEN YEARS!)

Any ways, my friend and I went to Joe O’Brien and told him how we – and lots of local folks – felt about circuses that showcase wild animal acts. Joe being Joe, didn’t need any educating or convincing. He told us he was on the animals’ side and that he would be behind a new proposed ordinance in Worcester: NO WILD ANIMAL acts in Worcester.

YES to clowns and Cirque de Soleil and acrobats and all magicians and huge marionettes and Bread and Circus! NO to tigers and lions and elephants and all the companies that parade them in front of  us humans! Joe O’Brien (now a Worcester city councilor) felt the cirucs was no way to expose kids – especially working class kids – to nature/Africa/wild animals/ecosystems. He told us Ringling Bros Circus had called his office – the mayor’s office – to do a kind of public relations stunt/photo op: The Mayor of Worcester hangs out on CITY HALL Common and feeds the circus elephants! The mayor (and thus, all of Worcester!) welcomes the wonderful circus to our city! Joe’s office said NO THANKS.  No one was rude to Ringling, no one pontificated. The mayor simply let the circus know that he, representing the city, wanted no part of this travesty.

Wow! My friend and I were encouraged! O’Brien told us to talk with the other city councilors to see if we could get a passing vote. We called/visited the other 10 Worcester City Councilors and made this progress:

* Former District 4 City Councilor Barbara Haller was on board! YES from Barb!  Hooray! An owner of a few rescued pit bulls from the surrounding Main South ‘hood in which she lived, Barb was clued into animal suffering and pain. She said she would vote for the ban.

* Past and PRESENT City Councilor Mike Germain also wanted to vote YES! Germain really impressed me! He told me of all the animals he owns and loves and that when he and his girlfriend and her little kid went into a kind of circus tent downtown to see the animals that they were showing the public, he was so appalled by their cramped/inhumane cages/living quarters that he and his girlfriend and her kid turned right around and WALKED OUT! Thank you, Councilor Germain!

* City Councilor Konstantina Lukes was, I believe, on board.  I counted Konnie as a YES because she is a sensitive person, and a cool person and cares about animals and people and our city. She listened to the points I made to her when I visited her. She came outside (walked me to my car) and gave my big old retriever mix Bailey (Bailey, like my Husky dog Jett, always rode with me in my car) a pat. She told me she thought my dog was beautiful! He was! (He had nasal cancer at that point, my Bailey Boy did. He died within the year.)

So with O’Brien, Lukes,  Haller and Germain on board, I was optimistic! Hopeful!

Then the Worcester municipal election came and went, and a different city council – one less progressive/sensitive, I believe – is now “leading” our city. So, of course, City Manager Mike O’Brien has given his blessing to all the animal torture! Of course, the elephants, tired and sad looking, were paraded through our city streets! Last year Ringling Bros. circus even managed to ingratiate themselves with the great people at the Worcester Historical Museum and added their elephants to the city’s World Smiley Day celebration, defiling an otherwise sweet Worcester celebration.

Let’s get back on track, Worcester! Let’s educate ourselves! Let’s educate our city council and city leaders AND BAN THIS HORROR SHOW from our cool, cool city – a city filled with good, smart, down to earth people who know how to care for each other … and the wild animals of the planet.

Leave a Reply