Letter to the Editor

Step right up to cruelty

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dear Editor,

In the wild, bears don't ride bicycles, tigers don't jump through fiery hoops, and elephants don't stand upright on their hind legs.

Circuses portray a distorted view of wildlife. Laws protecting animals in traveling shows are inadequate and poorly enforced. The Animal Welfare Act establishes only minimum guidelines and even these meager standards are often ignored.

Animals used in circuses live a dismal life of domination, confinement, and violent training. It is standard practice to beat, shock, and whip them to make them perform ridiculous tricks that they cannot comprehend. Most elephants used by circuses were captured in the wild.

Once removed from their families and natural habitat, their lives consist of little more than chains and intimidation. Baby elephants born in breeding farms are torn from their mothers, tied with ropes, and kept in isolation until they learn to fear their trainers. Big cats, bears, and primates are forced to eat, drink, sleep, defecate, and urinate in the same cramped cages.

Elephants often suffer crippling injuries from constant chaining and performing physically difficult tricks. Physical punishment has always been the standard training method for animals in circuses. Animals are beaten, shocked, and whipped to make them perform -- over and over again -- tricks that make no sense to them. Trainers drug some animals to make them "manageable" and surgically remove the teeth and claws from others.

Video footage shot during an undercover investigation of revealed an animal care director from one circus viciously attacking, yelling, and cursing at and shocking endangered Asian elephants. This so called animal enthusiast instructed other elephant trainers to beat the elephants with a bullhook as hard as they could and to sink the sharp metal bullhook into the animals' flesh and twist it until they screamed in pain.

The videotape also showed a handler using a blowtorch to remove elephants' hair and chained elephants and caged bears exhibiting stereotypic behaviors caused by mental distress.

Many circuses fail to meet minimal federal standards for the care of animals used in exhibition as established in the Animal Welfare Act.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has cited many circuses numerous times for failure to provide veterinary care and minimum space, for failure to provide shelter from the elements, for failure to maintain transport trailers, for inadequate ventilation, for unsound fencing that failed to protect spectators and animals, for rusty animal cages, for giving animals unclean water, and for failure to keep animal care records.

Children, who are naturally fond of animals, would have to be dragged kicking and screaming to the circus if they knew of the suffering these animals endure for a fleeting moment of so-called amusement. The circus deprives animals of their basic needs to exercise, roam, socialize, forage, and play. Stereotypic behaviors such as swaying back and forth, head-bobbing, pacing, bar-biting, and self-mutilation are common signs of mental distress. Using dangerous animals in performances jeopardizes public safety and often puts children at greatest risk. Since 1990, 57 people have been killed and more than 120 seriously injured by captive elephants. Animals in circuses are hauled around the country in poorly ventilated trailers and boxcars for up to 50 weeks a year in all kinds of extreme weather conditions. Access to the basic necessities of food, water, and veterinary care is often inadequate. A growing number of cities are restricting or banning the use of animals in entertainment. More progressive circuses dazzle their audiences solely with skilled human performers. You can help stop the suffering of elephants, tigers, and other animals abused in the name of "entertainment, by not supporting this coming event. Start teaching your children now about abuse and suffering these innocent animals are subjected to.

Reject the cruelty of these animals by not attending this sickening, so-called "entertaining" performance! Please to not bring them back again, McCook Optimist Club and Area Supporters!

Angie Burns,


EDITOR'S NOTE -- The Carson & Barnes Circus, which will be performing in McCook next week, says it maintains the highest level of care for its animals. More information is available at http://www.carsonbarnescircus.com/animals/animal.html

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: