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Defending the Animal Circus

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Circuses began in Ancient Rome. In 1768, Philip Astley gave birth to the modern circus in England when he set up a tiered, circular arena to perform equestrian acrobatics (McPherson, 2010). Throughout its long history, the circus has offered safe, harmless entertainment to people all over the world; it has done this using animals. In truth, animals have been one of the pillars of the circuses’ success throughout a history that spans hundreds of years. During the second half of the twentieth century, however, the number of animal circuses has significantly decreased. Animal rights activists claim that animals are abused (and even killed); they claim that animals belong in zoos and in their natural habitats. It is unfortunate that animal circuses have decreased in numbers, especially considering that the justification for this trend lacks sustenance. Animals are not abused in circuses, and what’s more, animal circuses do more than merely entertain an audience; they educate audiences as well. The ideas of having animals in circuses are good because they can do special tricks, they can communicate with people, and it is fun to watch the animals in the circuses.

Animal circuses are neither demeaning nor abusive towards animals

Circus animals are fed, loved, cleaned, and trained to do tricks that allow them to exercise safely while at the same time offering the public fun, harmless entertainment. It is wrong to single out animal circuses and stereotyping them as being abusive towards animals. Animal trainers may be violent and abusive, but this is not to say that they cannot be loving and calm. Training an animal and keeping it caged in a circus is not different from owning a pet, training it, and keeping it at home. The only real difference is that circus animals “certainly have a more stimulating day than bored zoo animals, and a longer life than their endangered cousins in the wild” (McPherson, 2010). Wild animals such as tigers and lions enjoy physical activity; learning tricks, practicing them, and performing them in front of people allow them to indulge in continuous, safe exercising. Furthermore, many animal experts are convinced that circus animals, instead of being physically and/or mentally traumatized, are actually healthy and content (Big Top Animals, 2010).

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Animal circuses are more than a safe haven for wild animals

Circuses are venues that educate average individuals about wild animals and allow them to communicate with them. Most people learn about wild animals from book, television, or the Internet, but few really know what they are really like. People can go to zoos and watch wild animals, but for the most part animals kept in zoos are depressed or bored; they just sleep or linger around their caged environments without offering much entertainment (or indulging in much exercise). The circus is different insomuch as it allows people to see what wild animals are like, and more importantly, what they can do. These animals’ strengths and abilities are demonstrated to the watching public. When engaging in tricks, animals seem alive and happy; the public passionately watches them (being entertained and educated at the same time). Also, the interaction between animals and the public constitutes a form of direct communication that helps both animals and human beings understand and respect each other. This is particularly important, especially for children, as they “grow to adore and respect animals, making them less likely to commit acts of cruelty in their teenage and adult years” (Big Top Animals, 2010).

Animal circuses offer safe entertainment to animals, trainers, and the public

Animal circuses are fun. When attending an animal circus it is impossible not to feel that it is “a privilege to observe such majestic creatures at close quarters” (McPherson, 2010). People are generally swayed by the propaganda that animal rights organizations such as PETA and RSPCA circulate. However, most people have never actually attended an animal circus; they have never seen what an animal circus environment is like for themselves. Furthermore, they are unaware of studies such as one conducted by “a 2007 DEFRA working group, composed of vets, academics and welfare campaigners, that found no evidence to support a ban” (McPherson, 2010). Animal circuses treat wild animals with respect, dignity, and above all, love. For the most part, animals used in circuses are bred in the circuses themselves. These are animals that cannot be simply released to the wild or be placed in zoos. The only viable alternative, recognized by the RSPCA, would be to sacrifice these animals. Based on this, it should be more than clear that allowing circus animals to thrive and entertain anyone willing to watch is the right thing to do, the humane thing to do.

Having animals in circuses is a good idea because it allows them to learn special tricks, it allows animals and human beings to communicate directly and effectively, and because it is safe and entertaining (for both the animals and the public). As well, animals should not be banned from circuses because circuses offer them a safe haven where they can exercise, interact with other animals (and with humans), and above all, endure. Animal cruelty is a pressing problem, but singling out animal circuses does nothing to offer relief. It is precisely in animal circuses where wild animals get the most attention, the most care, and the most love.

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