Thus revealed, the creature buried its nose in the tire-tilled soil...
June 10, 2008
I used to love the circus…
Category: Serious

...but PETA's e-mail notices have given me an entirely different view of them -- or at least the parts involving animals. Now, sometimes PETA's e-mails seem to go a bit too far regarding their various causes. For example, in a recent e-mail entitled "Most zoos are prisons for innocent animals," PETA writes:

There's a reason animals in most zoos look so sad. Few zoos can even begin to meet animals' complex needs. Animals in zoos are denied everything that is natural and important to them, and they're confined to enclosures that are infinitely smaller than the open spaces they would inhabit in their real homes in the wild.

And I'll agree, animals in zoos do have less "freedom" than their roaming wild counterparts, but they also don't have to hunt for their own food, get toys and tire swings and other nifty playthings, are safe from other animals that might prey upon them, have people tending to their medical needs, and so forth. So while I know they lack the ability to consent to any of this, it sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me and I'm not outraged about animals being kept in zoos. But I think I've mentioned it here before -- and I know I talked about it with Mickey during at least one discussion -- I think technology will eventually end up freeing animals anyway. Once virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and/or animatronics get up to speed, I submit that it will eventually be possible for people to have completely realistic zoo experiences without the need for animals. And with that being the case, it'll be much easier to simply do that and not have to pay for trainers and veterinarians and resources to keep the creatures healthy and alive (though there will be a need for software engineers, tech support, etc. to keep the virtual animals running properly).

Anyway, the science fiction projection was a digression -- my point was that, insofar as we assume that zookeepers are taking good care of their charges, most will not find the very idea of animals being kept in captivity to be particularly troubling. Nor will they be especially disturbed by PETA's screeds against the idea of animals performing because the tricks that they perform do not come naturally to them. In one e-mail, PETA decried the trick of having elephants stand on their hind legs -- not because this makes them much more likely to develop arthritis (though I think I did read that somewhere), but because they wouldn't normally do this in the wild. Um, yeah. I'm pretty sure Bacardi wouldn't normally roll around and slap people high fives in the wild either, but I hardly think that we're abusing him by having him do it. If circus animals were being abused, however, that would change everything.

But wait! They are being abused. Viciously. And that is why, despite my former love of the circus, I cannot bring myself to attend a show these days. Is there an all clown revue? Perhaps an animal-free show filled with gymnasts and sword-swallowers and performers like the lovely Lucifire? These are circuses I could visit without feeling (too) dirty.

-posted by Wes | 9:12 pm | Comments (6)
  • Mickelodeon says:

    I was just thinking about that conversation recently, but I'm not sure why it popped into my head.

  • Jaded says:

    We've never taken Jadette to the circus for that very reason. I've seen too many horrific reports of extreme abuse to animals in the circus.

    We have taken her to the zoo many times, however. I agree with your views regarding that particular subject. No, they don't have as much area in which to roam free. They don't need as much roaming room because much of the roaming is done in an effort to find food and water. If there was a constant supply of those things available to animals in the wild, perhaps they'd just stay put. Never know. Zoo animals are also treated well, receive medical treatment, have all the food and water they could ever need and are not hunted as prey. In some cases, zoos are the only places perpetuating species which might otherwise become extinct because they have all sorts of breeding programs. It may not be ideal, but it's not abuse.

  • De says:

    There are a couple of alternate circus venues I'm immediately aware of. One is Cirque de Soleil, which I don't think uses animals at all. The Big Apple Circus takes great care to be ethical in their treatment of animals and only use animals that have a "traditional working relationship with man" (like dogs and horses).

  • dave says:

    Don't forget, though, that PETA just kinda makes shit up.

    They protested outside of Ringling Bros at the Meadowlands using video of a DIFFERENT circus to substantiate abuse, which the Ringling Bros people debunked with their open back stage tours. They how, for example the sticks PETA says are used to stab elephants are used to gently prod them, much like the reigns of a horse are used to steer the animals - and the holding cages are backstage, but in the open, so there is nothing hidden or untoward. also, Ringling Brothers has rehab and wildlife sanctuaries and foundations - something that PETA has nothing resembling. PETA does have a naked chick painted like a tiger, though.

    Cirque de Soleil doesn't use animals, however, they use children. It's never been explored, but the one I saw in Jersey city had a bunch of children and tweens. I jokingly (since I have a sick sense of humor) wondered if one of the kids was going to get beaten for fucking up a trick. Then, upon further reflection (cause I've got that too) I noticed that all the kids were Asian. I couldn't help but wonder how they go to school and practice for difficult circus tricks on the road at the same time, I suspect these are not American kids, and they're not subject to the same protections our children are. I don't believe Cirque De Soleil is domociled in the US, and I wonder if child protection laws might be the reason why.

    PETA, though - man, bunch of tree hugging hippies out of a South Park Episode.

    PETA, probably don't know that animals in the wild get KILLED BY PREDITORS. They also die from elements and droughts and diseases. Circuses granted are sketchier, but people don't get involved with working for zoos unless they love animals, and unlike PETA, they're educated professionals, not stoned volunteers.

  • I just got a junk mail with the subject "Update Your Penis" and thought of you--not in a weird way.

    - Brian =)

  • Becky says:

    Kind of hard to find a flaw in your argument there. PETA's problem is the way they deliver their message makes it difficult for anyone to actually believe what they're saying.

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