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Why is the circus a magnet for protest?
Is there anything as magical as the circus? There are daring acrobats, hilarious clowns and often exotic animals. But not everyone is so thrilled by the Greatest Show on Earth.
Tonight, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus arrives for a seven-night run at the Staples Center, followed by a stint at the Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario and the Honda Center in Anaheim.
Animal activists, who have long protested the use of wild animals in circuses, will be out in force tonight.
“In essence circuses are inherently cruel for wild animals, whether it’s Ringling or any other circus,” Catherine Doyle, spokesperson for In Defense of Animals, said. “These animals are separated from their families, brutally trained to perform unnatural tricks, they’re chained, confined to small cages and pens, and transported around the country in cramped train cars and trucks for months at a time.”
Doyle is opposed to any form of circus, saying that the humane treatment of animals cannot be done in those conditions.
“If you cannot meet the animals needs. If you cannot meet their physical, social and psychological needs, you should not hold those animals,” she added.
Circus owners say that the handlers do not mistreat the lions, tigers and elephants in their care, and that handlers are animal lovers who take excellent care of their charges and make their welfare a priority.
“We are very, very proud of our animal care and to have the ability to showcase these animals to families around the country who really can’t see them in any other forum except ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’,” said Stephen Payne, vice president of corporate communications for Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Bros. Circus.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus raises most of its animals from captivity in their Central Florida compound, according to Payne.
“Unfortunately, this idealized wild that everyone speaks of really no longer exists. Asian elephants are highly endangered, there’s only about 35,000 left in the world. And really the animals at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey are ambassadors for their species,” Payne said.
For her part, Doyle claims it is just a matter of time before the use of wild animals in traveling circuses is banned completely by law.
“There are more than 35 municipalities across the U.S. that now restrict the use of wild animals in circuses in some form. And more cities are looking at the issue including L.A.,” Doyle said.
Can any animal kept for entertainment purposes be said to be well-treated? Should circuses go animal-free? What would become of the wild animals in their care if they did?
Catherine Doyle, spokesperson for In Defense of Animals
Stephen Payne, vice president of corporate communications for Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus