“This settlement sends a direct message to the public and to those who exhibit animals that USDA will take all necessary steps to protect animals regulated under the Animal Welfare Act” – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
Does going to the circus present honest issues about the ethical treatment of animals? The USDA seems to think so.
The circus is coming to town
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus’s latest spectacle, “Let the Dragon Games Begin!” rolls into the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum March 21 – 26. The bright spotlights, cotton candy and roasted peanuts of the circus are a time honored tradition that usually brings fun for the entire family.
But what happens in contemporary society where animals share the same rights of protection as people? What do parents tell inquisitive children who ask about such things, as they will when Ringling Bros. makes its customary appearance in Uniondale this year?
Who’s watching the animals?
On November 29, 2011, under the heading “Cruelty,” CNN U.S. contributor Leigh Remizowski wrote, “USDA fines Ringling Bros. over treatment of animals,” concerning the mistreatment of elephants at the Ringling circus which saw the Department of Agriculture, step in. Remizowski explains:
“The U.S. Department of Agriculture has slapped the parent company of the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ with a record penalty for alleged animal rights violations. Feld Entertainment Inc., which produces the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, has agreed to pay $270,000 for allegedly violating the Animal Welfare Act on several occasions from June 2007 to August 2011.”
Remizowski notes, “The lawsuit alleged that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is in violation of the Endangered Species Act and that the circus systematically abuses and exploits elephants by using metal bullhooks to guide and control the animals, as well as chaining their legs while they are not performing.”
Kids are watching
Coliseum goers don’t have to be familiar with USDA laws to know mistreating any animal is wrong. What happens when an eleven or twelve year old asks, “Is the circus bad to the elephants,” followed by “then why are we going?”
The circus is supposed to be a family friendly activity filled with flights of imagination created and performed by first-class professionals. How sad that it’s raised ethical issues of animal exploitation.