The circus is in town. One group of friends bought tickets to attend, another group protested the performance yesterday.
I have never seen a circus, nor have I ever been interested in seeing one. I’d love to see the animals but not wild creatures dressed in silly costumes and expected to do tricks to entertain the humans. I’m not terribly interested in domesticated animals dressed up and doing tricks either, but this is a different concept for animals we’ve domesticated who’ve already evolved to live with us and do the things we ask as we in turn take care of their needs.
While there may be the occasional wild animal raised by humans after injury or rescue who remains in human society, the sheer volume of animals needed to fulfull all the circus exhibits happening in a single day numbers in the thousands, usually bred in captivity for use as performers. The lions and tigers and bears, oh my, are not domesticated but are still wild animals despite the fact they were born in captivity, or sometimes rescued from shelters, and were never given the chance to learn their own species’ natural habits.
There are also first-hand reports from circus workers and from observers that animals are regularly beaten with tools and stun guns, dragged around with hooks and ropes, for not performing, for not performing correctly, or for nothing at all apparently, whether they are in the ring or out of it, home or traveling. Their rules may say otherwise but abuse of animals in circuses is legendary and long-standing and I don’t want to be a part of a process that functions as a result of it.
Many zoos today, though unfortunately not all, have let their animals out of their cages and built habitats instead, have qualified veterinarians and animal professionals handling the animals and making decisions for their welfare, and the goal is typically to give them a life as close to their natural life as possible. The animals also come from captive breeding programs but their lives are different for the opportunities they have as animals, and in fact, keeping their habitat as close to nature as possible is part of the importance of studying them to learn more all the time. This is often how we learn to rehabilitate wild animals who’ve been injured and need to be healed and released to the wild, and many species are involved in worldwide species protection programs as well. Living totally in the wild would be best for an animal who belongs there, but I’m always glad to visit the zoo for what I can learn and create—I would not have been able to design the block print of the female leopard at the top if it had not been for a visit to the zoo that permitted me to observe her and capture this moment—and glad the animals don’t need to do tricks to entertain me. We need to experience a bit of their wildness to understand what “wild” really is.
I’ve actually grown to be great friends with squirrels and raccoons and opossums and birds in my back yard, feeding them out of my hand and enjoying their daily visits, and if they happen to learn to catch the peanut I toss that’s really wonderful, but it’s because they want to and they can preserve as much of their wildness as they want. I’ve no doubt there are humans who live with wild animals who are more or less pets and have a bond where that animal will jump through a hoop or dance when the human asks them to. This is between that human and that animal. But making an industry of dominating wild animals for entertainment is plain cruel. Better Cirque du Soleil where the humans are the ones who perform.
Two years ago when an incident involving wild animals kept as pet made the news, I wrote the original version of Born Free.
Browse some rescued cats and kittens!
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