Circus signs on the backs of RTD buses appeared weeks ago in the Brighton/Thornton area as well as other parts of Metro Denver. However, they weren’t encouraging people to go to “the Greatest Show on Earth”, as the Ringling Brothers circus is nicknamed. The circus opens its Denver visit on October 2 at the Pepsi Center, where animal rights protesters will be present to make a statement against circuses.
The Colorado Animal ACTion Network, the group that paid for the anti-circus signs you may have seen on buses in Denver, says that circuses are cruel to the animals who are the subject of much of the show. The group’s sentiment is shared by many others nationwide.
According to Animal Defenders International, at least 21 US states and many more US cities have partial or complete bans on circus performances that include animals. Many European nations have also enacted at least some partial bans or restrictions or circuses, as has India, Israel and Singapore. AT least nine Latin American nations have bans as well.
Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus is the best-known traditional circus in the USA. The circus group, which has a history dating back to the 1880s, has been criticized frequently for not scrutinizing the mistreatment of elephants by its own employees. Performances by elephants are among the circus’s biggest signature acts.
Baby elephants endure harsh treatment in order to be trained to be circus performers, say animal welfare activists. Ringling Bros. has indeed been charged by the US Department of Agriculture for violations of the Animal Welfare Act due to poor treatment of elephants in training. The Wildlife Advocacy Project chronicles a series of charges dating back to the 1990s.
Ringling Bros counters that it plays an important role in preserving the elephant species. The group breeds elephants at its own Center for Elephant Conservation in Tennessee. If the killing of wild elephants overseas continues for another decade, conservation centers such as the one operated by Ringling Brothers could, in theory, be key to the survival of the species. Elephants are being slaughtered by poachers at alarming rates-the slaughter has been a cover story topic for Smithsonian and National Geographic Magazines in the past 12 months.
For many who may never get to take a safari trip to Africa or Asia, the circus or the zoo will be the only way they can ever experience the presence of a live elephant or other exotic animal. Such experiences can be key to connecting humans to the animals and thus become sympathetic to them in the first place. Can circuses be operated without cruelty?
The issue has yet to be debated in the open. Certainly, there are inappropriate ways to treat and train dogs, and then there are appropriate methods that ca be the norm. The alternative to banning circuses could be to establish legal methods of animal training that are in compliance with proper animal welfare standards, including the elimination of electric prods, bull hooks and the use of trunk tying, among other methods still deemed acceptable by circus operators.
Anti-circus protests will take place at the Pepsi Center October 2-5 and subsequently at the Denver Coliseum October 9-13 and will be sponsored by the Colorado Animal ACTion Network.