ringling bros

What Children Learn from Animals in Circuses

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On 14 January 2017 Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that they will be closing down permanently as of 21 May 2017.  They will perform a few shows between now and the 21 of May 2017, but after that Ringling Bros no more.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is a United States traveling circus company.  Their main show is called “The Greatest Show on Earth” which includes animal performances such as camels, monkeys, dogs, horses , lions, tigers,and elephants.

Without even touching on the inherent cruelty in training and confinement of the animals, some people would still argue that animals in circuses are a good way for children’s education.   I completely disagree.

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Animals in circuses teach children that it is ok to confine somebody for our entertainment.  It teaches children that it is perfectly ok to confine, abuse, and objectify non-human sentient beings if that entertains us.

Up until the mid 20th century (1950s) the western countries such as the United States hosted freak shows using unwilling participants as a form of entertainment.  Up until the similar era the United States also displayed African American humans in zoos.  These are instances where we have confined, abused, and objectified other human beings for the sake of “entertainment”.  In modern society, anybody who identifies as a “normal” person would be shocked if freak shows and zoos with humans re-opened.  How is using animals for “entertainment” different?

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Where is the evidence to say that animals “want” to be in zoos or perform in circuses?  Most of the animals used in circuses are non-domesticated animals that are either captured from the wild or bred in captivity.

Animals in circuses teach children that it is OK to dominate and control other beings if they are “different” to us.  they teach that objectifying and using others for personal entertainment is ok.  This creates a lack of empathy in children that could carry into their adult life and adversely affect their human and other non-human interactions. As if our society doesn’t have enough social problems already.

See another article about this topic here.

The well known Australian moral philosopher and animal rights activist Peter Singer said:

“When children see animals in a circus, they learn that animals exist for our amusement. Quite apart from the cruelty involved in training and confining these animals, the whole idea that we should enjoy the humiliating spectacle of an elephant or lion made to perform circus tricks shows a lack of respect for the animals as individuals.”

I welcome the permanent closing of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in May 2017.  I just hope the retiring animals are surrendered to reputable sanctuaries to live out the remainder of their lives.  Sadly there are already talk of them being surrendered to other cruel industries such as animal research facilities.  Such is the fate of this lot of unfortunate animals.  My silver lining of  hope is that other circuses follow Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus lead and cease animal performances so that new animals are not captured and bred into this outdated industry.

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