We went to a circus on Saturday. The Shriner’s circus was in Burlington, and some friends of ours had tickets but couldn’t go, so they gave them to us. There were your standard trapeze artists, clowns, jugglers, and stuff (though not a single pair of stilts to be seen anywhere), and they were all good. The things I wasn’t so impressed with were the animal acts. Oh, the animals were all trained very well, and the performances went off without a hitch, but something about applauding because six horses were running single file in a circle, then switched directions because some woman with a whip twirled her arms just didn’t sit well with me. At least once (I think twice) the MC said that elephants are an endangered species and that they hoped that the opportunity to see the elephant at the circus would cause us (the audience) to become interested in helping do something about it. He also said that elephants in the wild generally live around 45 years, but elephants living in captivity can live up to 80 years. I read over the web site for the circus company, and they do say that they are they take “great pride in the care that [their] animals receive”, and I’m sure that the animals are generally not mistreated. The elephant act didn’t bother me — one elephant standing on a little stool while some gymnast climbed around on him — and the trained poodles were very cute, but the only time I saw a whip (which was not used on the animals — in fact, she never cracked it once) was during the horse act, and that bothered me.
I’m no tree-hugger, and I do eat meat, but cruelty to animals really bothers me. I cannot envision a scenario involving these horses and a whip that does not involved some cruelty to the horses. They were also tied up in such a way that the horses could not lift their heads beyond a certain point. This was probably for the safety of the performers, but the horse is a very majestic animal, and seeing them with their heads constantly pulled down made them look subservient and humiliated, and I really felt sorry for them.