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Letter: A Better Show Without Animals

To the Editor:

As Henry Homeyer stated in his July 23 Close-Up article, the circus is considered “the greatest show on Earth.” For many circus-goers, the biggest draw is the animals. Given the glitz and glamor of the production, it is easy to overlook the poor quality of life that circus animals endure for the sake of a couple of hours of human entertainment. While I am certain that most individuals involved in the circus care for the animals, the majority of these animals nonetheless endure a dismal quality of life that should not be ignored.

Circus animals often spend over 11 months per year traveling. When not on the road, they are still confined to cages and chains, a highly unnatural environment for animals such as elephants, tigers and lions, creatures accustomed to covering wide expanses in the wild. In addition, most circuses’ training practices are questionable, if not cruel and unethical. Numerous investigations have shown fear and punishment are used to train animals. Do you really think that a tiger jumping through a ring of fire is doing it for any reason other than fear?

In 2011, the Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey circus was fined $270,000 by the Department of Agriculture for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, enacted in 1966 to establish minimum standards for treatment of animals. Governments in more than 30 countries, including England, Wales, Colombia and India, have recognized these problems and responded by banning or limiting the use of animals in circuses . For those worried about the financial impact of this, consider the success of Cirque du Soleil, a production that does not include animals.

Supporting circuses that exploit wild animals sends the message that these animals exist for our entertainment without teaching anything about their natural habitats. Is this really a message we want to send our children? There are many family-friendly alternatives to the traditional circus, including fairs, community concerts and baseball games. I would encourage individuals to pursue one of these alternatives rather than supporting the suffering of animals by purchasing tickets to the circus.

Kerry Gudlewski

Lebanon

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