Circuses entertain audiences, but they bring no joy to performing animals. Well-documented training techniques include severe beatings, intimidation, and deprivation of food and water. Elephants spend virtually their entire lives chained, confined to small box cars or trucks, and isolated from each other. Organizations such as Animal Defenders International (www.adiusa.org) provide further details.
The evidence of abuse led to federal legislation called the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act that aims to restrict the use of wild animals in traveling circuses. Celebrities Bob Barker and Jorga Fox championed this legislation on Capitol Hill where Fox stated, “Our kids look to us for what is right and our kids look to us for what is fun. If kids knew how cruel and violent these events were, I think they’d actually be very disappointed in us.”
So what’s a parent to do?
For starters, there are animal-free circuses such as Cirque Eloize, currently at Proctor’s Theater, and Circus Smirkus, a troupe that holds camps where kids can learn the art of juggling, clowning and unicycling.
If children want to see wild animals, several sanctuaries offer tours, discovery days and videos that will not disappoint. Check out www.bigcatrescue.org to see lions and tigers playing with their toys. Or go t(click “Meet the Chimps”) to watch a dozen different videos that will both entertain and educate children about the day-to-day antics and activities of chimps in the wild.
As for children who just love animals, Catskill Animal Sanctuary is only an hour away from Albany. Take a weekend tour where kids can meet many of the 150 farm animals and learn how they were rescued.
These days, when our kids look to us for what is right and what is fun, we thankfully have humane choices.
Kathleen Collar is founder of Dogs In Need Everywhere.