I’ve always found the circus off-putting. Growing up, I never had much interest in going. Seeing animals perform wasn’t appealing, zoos, sigh, that’s a subject matter to be touched on next week. I always boggle at how quickly society blames the “raging” elephant for stampeding through a crowd of circus goers…
How does this scenario sound, you are at home, lounging in your pj’s on a lazy Sunday morning. Me and my crew of about 10 barge in. Before you have time to think, let alone react, you are out cold from a tranquilizer dart. Next thing you know, you are in a cage, being shipped to Kalamazoo, MI. Once you get there, you refuse to budge from the cage. It’s safer to stay in there than to venture out into this strange and unfamiliar world. But, after several bashes from the bullhook, you just can’t take it anymore.
As you move out of the cage, you notice that your legs are shackled together.
All you can think is, “how can I get out of here?” Other thoughts start flooding through your mind. Your home, your family…seconds later some man, the one with the bullhook, is yelling at you. You have no idea what he’s saying, but you can tell he’s mad because he begins hitting you with that hook again.You begin to bleed and bruise. Tears well up in your eyes. Over the next few weeks, you do everything in your power to avoid being beaten…
Not a fun way to live, is it? I have no trouble in seeing myself loosing my mind in the face of such extreme abuse.
I recently read the novel Water for Elephants, which is about circus life during the Depression era. I was pretty disappointed. The overall story was fine, but it was the Q&A and Author’s Notes that ruined it. Gruen has the reader’s attention and heart, yet at the end she failed to take a solid stance against the abuse that animals endure in circuses. Gruen shares examples of two elephants, Topsy and Old Mom. Topsy ended up killing her trainer after he fed her a lit cigarette. She was then brutally murdered via cyanide doused carrots and/or electrocution. Old Mom was labeled as stupid, until the trainer discovered she actually only understood German commands. Gruen never uses the words cruelty, inhumane, or revolting, when talking about the circus. I don’t understand how you can write a book such as this and not discuss the blatant animal abuse.
While I was still incensed by this, a friend recently told me that she plans on taking her son to the circus this Saturday. I had to muster up every ounce of energy to keep from screaming into the phone. After remembering to breathe, I found myself totally tongue-tied. I didn’t want to insult my friend, and her desire to have bonding time with her son is a good thing. I tried to think of good alternative bonding activities, but couldn’t come up with anything. I did some research today, and found a whole heap of great, kid-friendly activities to do.
- Circus Juventas (in St. Paul, an animal friendly circus, with a cast of human-animals only)
- Children’s Museum
- Warner Nature Center
- Whole Foods (often offers kid friendly classes) same with Seward Co-Op
- Heart of the Beast (puppet shows!)
- Vertical Endeavors (indoor climbing, all ages welcome: Saturday is family night!)
- Martial Arts Class
- Art Class
- Compassionate Kids
There are tons of other activities, but a lot of them are time sensitive. Parents can check out event calendars or join/create Meetup groups.
If any of you are considering, or have considered going to the circus (Shrine, Ringling, Barnum, etc..) Please check out alternative events in your area first. The stories I shared earlier are just a small glimpse of the atrocities that occur each day in the animal entertainment business.
For more info on circuses, visit CRY.