Tucson Circus: Is animal cruelty the greatest show on earth?by Karyn Zoldan on Jun. 21, 2012, under Animal Cruelty, Animal Events
The circus comes to Tucson June 21-24 and then to Phoenix June 26-28. It’s not all fun and games under the big top especially if you’re an animal performer. Circus animals spend most of their lives in confinement traveling from city to city often in extreme temperatures.
As recently as June 10, a whistleblower employee of Ringling Brothers Circus signed a sworn affidavit as to seeing an attendant strike an elephant on her leg with full force at least six times in a manner that the whistleblower describes as “violent,” “excessive,” “angry,” and “without warning.” The attendant continued striking the elephant, who was chained by two legs, even after she had moved out of his way.
The whistleblower also noted that the large cats traveling with the circus were always confined to their cages unless performing. He didn’t see any of the animals provided with regular access to water, and he was told that the circus does not travel with a veterinarian.
Circuses deny captive-born wild animals of their need to exhibit their natural behavior. Large animals such as elephants, lions and tigers need a large amount of space to move around and to socialize with their own kind. In the circus, elephants are chained or confined to a small space and are only able to stand up, lie down or shuffle a few paces backwards and forwards. Lions and tigers are shut in their beast wagons for over 90% of the time.
Beatings and confinement…does that sound like animal cruelty or the greatest show on earth?
Watch the video. And if you’re like Tucson Tails and cannot watch the video because animal cruelty makes you want to vomit, the sounds are vivid enough.
Would you be surprised to learn that many countries have banned live circus animals but the United States is a bit backward on humane issues and animals used for entertainment and/or some circus lobbyists work hard for their money. According to this article, even China bans live circus animals.
In South America, live circus animals have been banned in Bolivia and Peru and Panama has banned many forms of animals used for entertainment. Tucson resident Maru Vigo has worked on the Peru live circus animal ban. I sat down with her, eager to learn more how the ban was accomplished.
KZ: Why are you opposed to live animals in circuses?
MV: At this time and age nobody ignores the fact that animals live miserable lives of confinement, abuse and neglect in circuses. Not only are they separated from their families and siblings but they are moved from their natural environments to live in barren environments or cruel and dirty cages. There is no excuse to be an accomplice of animal cruelty when there are other forms of true and ethical entertainment. People who prefer to look the other way are guilty of animal cruelty too!
KZ: How did you get involved?
MV: The fight against animals in circuses has been a very long one.
KZ: What role did you play in the Peru ban?
MV: My role in this victory has been as a supporter and adviser. The organization that was instrumental in the victory was Animals Defense International. One of their main goals is to eradicate all circuses with animals from Latin America.
KZ: What was the process or impetus?
MV: It had several stages: education, improving public sensibilities, offering alternatives, and a long lobbying process in the Peruvian Congress.
KZ: Did you attend circuses with live animals as a child? If yes, do you remember how you felt watching?
MV: As a reward for our excellent grades in school, my father used to take my sister and I to the Moscow Circus, one of the best of the world. I remembered that I enjoyed the acrobats, the jugglers, the contortionists, and all the human acts (with the exception of the clowns, which I detest) but the animal acts were never logical to me. Of course, I was impressed seeing magnificent animals from faraway lands, but the whips, the cages, the animals’ faces and the never ending routines seemed very wrong to me. Once I asked my dad to take me to the back of the big top to see how they live when they were not performing, but we were never allowed to get there. It was the time when I realized that I did not need to see blood to be a witness of the animals’ misery and exploitation. My dad was a good-hearted man so he never insisted in bringing us to the circus ever again.
KZ: Tell the Tucson Tails readers about yourself.
MV: Well, I have been an animal advocate since 1980. I have been through several victories regarding animals and have learned a lot from other activists like Ingrid Newkirk, the president of PETA. I am a firm believer on humane education and think it should be a mandatory part of any educational curricula. Locally, I am working everyday to achieve the goal to see Tucson Greyhound Park closed for good. Internationally, I organize spay and neuter campaigns in Latin America and I act as an adviser for several Spanish-speaking grassroots organizations.
I managed the Spanish language blog Animalia Latina and I have just accepted the position of International Adviser for AnimaNaturalis International. As we speak, I am ready to open a branch of the organization in Lima, Peru. Another goal is to do the same in Tucson in order to establish links with the Spanish-speaking communities of the USA.
KZ: What can people reading this do to ban live animals in the US? In Arizona?
MV: The key is to persevere and to educate yourself before you create a front to deal with our City Council. We must approach council members that sympathize with our goal and demand a ban on circuses in our city. We must be persistent and if the elected politicians do not hear our claims, we must stop their re-election and support new candidates who have a stronger commitment towards their constituents. This is not only an animal welfare issue; it is a matter of ethics and a great opportunity to foster empathy, respect and kindness in the future generations of our town.
KZ: Anything else you want to add?
MV: I just want to say that EVERYONE can help this crusade in an effective way. Every person that has a talent, connections, or money and is willing to help circus animals could become an important part of the equation; but consistency is key. It is about time to see more USA cities free from the archaic and cruel presence of animal circuses.
Attention Tucson: This is your chance to take a stand against circus animal cruelty. Come to the peaceful protest at the Tucson Convention Center on:
- Thursday, 6/21/12 — 6 P.M.
- Friday, 6/22/12 — 6 P.M.
- Saturday, 6/23/12 — 10 A.M. & 2 P.M. & 6 P.M.
- Sunday, 6/24/12 — NOON & 4 P.M.
You can also RSVP on Facebook for the event. All materials are provided on site. Bring water to drink. Each shift lasts approx. 75 minutes. Please avoid wearing any type of animal product such as leather shoes/purse, suede accessories, feathers. Meet on the east side of TCC.
SPEAK’s Public Outreach Coordinator Gary Vella is organizing the protest. He is absolutely opposed to the use of animals in circus performances. “It is a totally unnatural existence for them; particularly if they are wild animals,” states Vella. “The training scenarios are cruel and based upon dominance of the animal. I always encourage the public to support progressive non-animal circuses such as Cirque du Soleil, the Pickle Family Circus, and other cruelty-free performances.”