by Kitty Block
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus just lately kicked off a brand new nationwide tour following a six-year hiatus. However for the primary time within the present’s century-and-a-half historical past, there will probably be no elephants balancing on balls in opposition to their will, no bears compelled to bounce in costume and no lions and tigers corralled by tamers.
That’s an excellent factor. This historic shift underscores our rising nationwide embrace of the precept that animals shouldn’t undergo for our leisure. Past Ringling, nevertheless, we nonetheless have a long way to go towards totally realizing this worth.
The circus wove itself into the material of American and European tradition over the centuries with a fascinating array of human performers, from clowns to acrobats, together with animals corresponding to horses. Nevertheless it wasn’t till the nineteenth century that wild animals corresponding to zebras, camels and giraffes — creatures by no means earlier than seen on the streets of London or New York — had been shipped throughout oceans to spice up ticket gross sales. Dad and mom introduced their youngsters not solely to witness breathtaking acrobatics but in addition for the thrill of encountering these outstanding animals up shut, usually for the primary time.
What remained hidden from the general public was the tragic mistreatment these animals routinely endured. Animals in circuses are hauled throughout the nation in poorly ventilated trailers and boxcars for as much as 50 weeks a yr in all types of utmost climate. Fundamental requirements corresponding to meals, water and veterinary care are sometimes insufficient. An investigation by the Humane Society of the USA revealed that circus animals had been subjected to shockingly brutal coaching periods and compelled to eat, sleep and urinate throughout the meager confines of a 13-square-foot area.
Utilizing harmful, captive animals in performances additionally jeopardizes folks, notably youngsters. For the reason that Seventies, scores have been harm or killed by circus animals.
After many years of advocacy efforts, Ringling Bros. retired all of its elephants in 2016 earlier than occurring hiatus the next yr. Its return with out animals is emblematic of a bigger pattern: Industries that had been constructed on animal cruelty and exploitation are redefining themselves for a extra humane future.
Many industries have embraced this shift. The American industrial whaling trade is lifeless, changed by a whale-watching trade that permits folks to watch and find out about these magnificent creatures of their pure habitats. Greyhound racing, as soon as fashionable throughout the nation, has been banned in 42 states. And the cub-petting trade, which sells picture ops and different interactions with juvenile large cats, has suffered a serious blow due to the hit Netflix present “Tiger King” and Congress’ Massive Cat Public Security Act, which limits public contact with and protecting of the animals.
The time has come for all industries to acknowledge animals as sentient beings worthy of respect and safety. We have to limit the personal possession of wildlife species past large cats and prohibit their use in petting, cuddling and picture op operations, that are increasing throughout the nation at an alarming fee and placing extra species in danger.
Shoppers maintain the ability to foster extra compassionate types of leisure and a extra humane world for animals. By shunning occasions and companies that exploit animals for leisure, people can ship a transparent message that cruelty has no place on this nation.
A superb place to begin is to keep away from zoos and different sights that aren’t accredited by the nationwide Affiliation of Zoos and Aquariums in addition to anywhere that gives direct contact and different interactions with wild animals. There are a variety of family-friendly methods to see and expertise animals in accordance with our evolving moral requirements, together with native, state and federal parks and forests, nature facilities and animal welfare organizations with academic applications.
It’s true that for many people, the circus was our introduction to wonderful creatures. However increasingly more of us have come to acknowledge that this simply isn’t the suitable option to expertise and respect their majesty.
As Ringling Bros. ushers in a brand new period, it ought to function an inspiration to different circuses, touring exhibits and leisure companies to champion a extra humane and moral future. This second affords the remainder of us a chance to embrace a imaginative and prescient of compassion towards animals not just below the large high however throughout each aspect of our society.