Panem et Circenses: bread and circuses; it’s all we’ve ever needed throughout human history – sustenance, and entertainment. Why is it though, that the root source of both these entities have to be so incredibly fraught with violence and suffering? Much of our focus in the Veg Society has been about food, so now, let us discuss the circuses.
The Ringling Brothers Circus is currently owned by Kenneth Feld, a Boston University alumnus.
In the past 12 years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has cited Ringling Bros. numerous times for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Improper handling of dangerous animals
- Failure to provide adequate veterinary care to animals
- Causing trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm, and unnecessary discomfort to elephants who sustained injuries from performances
- Endangering tigers who overheat in boxcars because of poor maintenance of facilities
- Failure to test elephants for tuberculosis
- Unsanitary feeding practices
August 25, 2011, the USDA cited Ringling for failure to handle animals in a manner that prevents physical harm after a tiger named Kimba had her tail caught in the gait of a transfer cage, suffering a terrible wound. The same day, the circus was cited for subjecting Banko, a 35-year-old elephant, to perform even though she was experiencing severe distress while suffering from diarrhea and abdominal pain that required medication. This utter disregard for the health, emotional and physical, of these circus animals is sickening, but the illusion that Ringling projects of a phantasmagorical and kid-friendly experience is even more sickening.
In the Ringling Brother’s Circus, animals are beaten, prodded with bullhooks (very similar to a fireplace poker), and painfully struck repeatedly as a means of forcing them to perform tricks which are unnatural and dangerous. Little baby elephants are bound with ropes and shocked with electric prods so much so that these little creatures cry, wail, and writhe for their freedom. Over the years there has been prominent opposition to the veal industry because of the mistreatment of baby cows; so, why is it that despite baby elephants suffering and being subjected to such violent training methods, we still flock to the circus?
The same goes for SeaWorld, where the well-being of orcas and other sea-creatures lacks any and all priority status. What is the sense in keeping a large animal such as an orca in captivity, preventing it from actualizing his or her destiny within the vast depths of the ocean from which it came? You and I have the ability to wake up in the morning and proclaim the world to be our oyster, brimming with opportunity. From both my common-sense as well as my spiritual worldview, the sequestering away of these beautiful aquatic creatures into deplorably insubstantial living conditions is cruel because the seemingly interminable depths of the ocean are replaced with confines conducive to death and injury; the majesty of the boundless ocean is substituted for a settling which deleteriously affects an animal’s mental state and physical well-being. Just as stress and execrable conditions push humans to the brink, such is the case with the orca, Tilikum, who killed his trainer in 2010.
It is our obligation as conscientious objectors to encourage corporations like Ringling and SeaWorld to infuse compassion into their business practices. I occasionally daydream about having to explain to the child I may have that they are taking a firm, commendable stand in not joining their many friends and peers who attend the circus, go to the zoo, and howl at the whales and orcas at SeaWorld. Until then, may mass entertainment and animal cruelty decline in synonymity.
On that note, please feel free to join us as we boycott the Ringling Bros. a week from today, on October 10th, outside of TD garden at 5:30 PM.
Gunita Singh is a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences studying political science. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.