Sunday, February 19, 2012

Should I Not Take My Kids To The Circus?

Mother Nature Network

Q: So, I just caught the film adaptation of “Water for Elephants.” Great film (love that Robert Pattinson) but the depictions of animal abuse left me a bit shaken. I know the film was a historical drama and assume that the treatment of circus animals has changed for the better over the years, but I wonder if it has changed enough. Is the very presence of animals at circuses — no matter how they are treated — cruel? Normally, I take my two circus-loving boys to the big top when it comes to town, but I’m thinking about calling it off this year and forever. Am I overreacting or being smart? Are there any traveling non-animal circuses that I should keep an eye for?

Selma, Chandler, Ariz.

A: Hey Selma,
Glad you liked “Water for Elephants.” I’m not one for circus-themed historical romances, but I’m sure it was refreshing to see a more flush-cheeked, non-fanged Mr. Pattinson not running around the backwoods of Washington state.
After watching the film, I don’t think the impulse to stop taking your kids to the circus is overreacting (although I doubt it was the film producers’ intention), but this is also a difficult question to provide a definite “yes” or “no” answer for because it’s so subjective. It all comes down to what you define as animal abuse and not where an advice columnist with a mild case of coulrophobia or an over-the-top, exploitative organization like peta (hello again, subjectivity) draws the line.

Do you define it as the flagrant mistreatment of captive animals (i.e. causing them physical harm to induce pain)? Or does your definition span much wider to include zoo animals and carefully trained and transported wild animals featured in films like “Water for Elephants” where abuse is depicted but not actually performed? Is every wild animal, be it a lion, a tiger or a bear, living in captivity, no matter what the situation, being abused? Just a few circus peanuts for thought ...

And the decision about taking your kids to the circus should be solely yours, since I’m not going to tell you that the circus — whether it’s the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey or a smaller operation — is an evil institution that you shouldn’t support. And I’m not going to delve in the law suits, allegations surrounding the treatment of circus animals. There’s plenty of saddening, shocking information out there, if you choose to seek it out. (Much of it has come to light in the wake of a tragic 1994 incident involving a rogue elephant at a circus in Hawaii.)


'Let's cross our finger's and hope no one get's hungry enough to do another "Water For Elephants" any time soon, and quit trying to convince me that it didn't affect the current situation badly, and "people are smart, they will understand it is just a movie and Hollywood theatrics."
With the exception of the recent S & L fiasco and prior to that the tobacco industry debacle, I don't think any industry has fallen so quickly and so badly in the arena of public opinion then the circus. I so wish with all my heart the world accepted individual actions do not make a whole industry.'

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