The Expanding Circle

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Posts Tagged ‘circus’

Ringling to phase out elephants by 2018

Posted by tinako on March 5, 2015

I don’t usually just repost news stories, but this one is so close to my heart and so exciting I just have to share:

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/df575148221544f4adaf3bea2adbb635/apnewsbreak-ringling-bros-eliminating-elephant-acts

Mr. Feld says they’re reacting to the changing public mood.  Thank you to everyone who told him what you think of Ringling’s use of elephants.

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Elephants Wish They Could Forget

Posted by tinako on November 24, 2014

My friend George Payne of Gandhi Earth Keepers International came out with us to picket the opening night of Ringling’s visit to our city.  Afterwards he wrote the following:

by George Payne

Along with a dozen other local animal rights advocates from Upstate New York, I recently participated in a silent demonstration against the Ringling Brothers Circus. We gathered on a chilly October night in front of the Blue Cross Arena, while hundreds of people trickled into the building’s entrance. Our handmade yellow signs bore slogans such as, “Animals are born to be wild;” “Elephants Wish They Could Forget;” and “Boulder, CO Banned Animal Circuses.”

While standing in line with my yellow sign, I began to think about the evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson, who once said: ”Each culture has its own creation myth, the primary functions of which are to place the tribe that contrived it at the center of the universe, and to portray history as a noble epic.”

It occurred to me while contemplating Wilson’s quote that most people cannot psychologically consume the pain of these animals because they are not portrayed as being at the center of their noble epic. By and large, animals in our society are treated as resources, tools, pets, game, mascots, predators, clothing and costumes. Rarely are animals seen as having intrinsic value with their own “special” center. The reason for this blindness stems from a condition called aristocentrism. This is an unwarranted claim to superiority. In different ways we conclude that we are special, and insist that the cosmos have anointed us. We believe that our existence has the most special meaning of all, and that we have rare knowledge or a message to give to the rest of Creation. Inevitably this world view degenerates into an inordinate claim to superiority for oneself or one’s group. (The word aristocentrism comes from the Greek words agathos, “good” and kentrikos, from kentron, “the center of a circle.”)

The problem with aristocentrism is that it is based on an illusion. We are not the center of the universe. Our species is not the most important group in the cosmos. There are symbiotic relationships between all living beings that make superiority impossible. That is precisely why Gandhi wrote: “The greatness of a nation can be judged by how its animals are treated.”

The way we view our place in the cosmos has a direct impact on the way we treat all other animals; and the way we treat all other animals determines the quality of our character as moral agents. It was Gandhi’s belief that the strong have an obligation to protect the weak. The fact that circus animals are kidnapped, caged, drugged, intimidated, beaten, and exploited, means that people of freedom, sobriety, fearlessness, and physical strength should come to their aid. By coming to the aid of weaker animals in their time of ultimate need, we activate our best selves and overcome our limitations as a fundamentally egocentric species.

But to be in true solidarity with our fellow bio-companions, means that we see their worth as existing independent of our ability to appreciate and defend it.

In the Emotional Lives of Animals, author Marc Bekoff proves that nonhuman creatures exhibit Charles Darwin’s six universal emotions (anger, happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, and surprise). He shows that wild and domestic species have a kaleidoscopic range of feelings, from embarrassment to awe, and that we dismiss them not only at their peril but our own. Bekoff writes, “It’s bad biology to argue against the existence of animal emotions. Scientific research in evolutionary biology, cognitive ethology, and social neuroscience supports the view that numerous and diverse animals have rich and deep emotional lives. Emotions have evolved as adaptations in numerous species, and they serve as a social glue to bond animals with one another.”

One of the main reasons I chose to participate in the silent demonstration against Ringling Brothers was to physically and spiritually acknowledge this primal wisdom that Bekoff writes about so eloquently in his books. Elephants are a prime example. Just to acknowledge the suffering of elephants trapped in circuses is an act of resistance. Nearly all 60 Asian elephants incarcerated by Ringling were captured in the wild. Baby elephants suffer painful rope lesions when being pulled prematurely from their mothers. There is a chronic failure to test elephants for tuberculosis, unsanitary feeding practices, and a failure to maintain, clean, and repair their transport cages. There is an overall inability to provide adequate veterinary care. Elephants get pushed and prodded with bullhooks, and they are forced to perform whether they are healthy or sick.

According to PETA, Ringling has admitted to chaining elephants by two legs, on a concrete floor, for 16 hours a day, which is a direct violation of the Endangered Species Act. They have also admitted to chaining elephants in boxcars an average of 26 straight hours (often 60 hours) when traveling. Treatment of animals like baby elephants has gotten so bad even corporate giants such as VISA, MasterCard, Denny’s, and Sears & Roebuck have ended their promotion of the circus.

These creatures are not dependent on human beings to guarantee them their rights; but we cannot be truly ourselves in any adequate manner without animals as miraculous and beautiful as Asian elephants being free of confinement, harassment, torture, and murder. Asian elephants console others who are in distress using physical touches and vocalizations. They have been shown to demonstrate keen intelligence. Like people, they live in complex societies with family units at their core. For these reasons alone, we must put a stop to this slavery. Let’s prove that we are not a nation of cowards and killers but a community of friends working for the betterment of all species. This is what Gandhi meant when he employed the term Sarvodaya. The least we can do is stand outside with a yellow protest sign.

Information obtained from: http://www.MediaPeta.com/Peta/PDF/RinglingFactssheet.pdf
Spring 2014 Emory Magazine (What Can Animals Teach Us? pg.35)

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Your newspaper may print the truth about circuses

Posted by tinako on November 1, 2014

Educational or Entertaining?  You decide.

Educational or Entertaining? You decide. You can view videos of Ringling’s backstage beatings at RinglingBeatsAnimals.com.

With Ringling Circus coming to our city, a group of us were inspired to take some actions against this barbaric industry (and other animal entertainments).  To support these efforts, I wrote a letter to the editor which was published in our city newspaper last month:

Ban Barbaric Businesses

Ringling Brothers Circus is coming to Rochester at the end of the month. Both dog fighting and animal circuses abuse animals for profit and entertainment. Why condemn and outlaw one and buy tickets to the other? Patronize the wonderful non-animal circuses that come here instead, such as Circus Orange and Cirque du Soleil. Tell your friends, and ask the City Council to ban these barbaric businesses from our community.

Ringling’s PR person got right on that and fired off a response:

Once again, animal rights activists are using our return to Rochester to distort Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s excellent record of animal care.

Everyone with Ringling Bros. takes great pride in presenting quality family entertainment to audiences across the country, but animal rights activists continue to level spurious charges against Ringling Bros.’ dedicated team of animal care professionals.

Ringling Bros. is proud of its human and animal partnerships and the needs of our animals are a top priority. Ringling Bros. meets or exceeds all federal, state and local animal standards, is subject to regular unannounced inspections, and has never been found in violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

Rather than take what animal rights groups say at face value, we invite Rochester families to come see for themselves how the animals are thriving at The Greatest Show On Earth.

STEPHEN PAYNE
FELD ENTERTAINMENT (PARENT COMPANY OF RINGLING BROS.), VIENNA, VA

His distortion of the truth and silly logic made it easy for us.  Someone I don’t know but would like to meet responded in a letter printed October 15th:

Circus should allow access behind the scenes

In response to Stephen Payne, Feld Entertainment, parent company of Ringling Bros., who invites Rochester families to see for themselves how their animals are thriving in their circus, I wonder why he doesn’t invite these families behind the scenes to see how well the animals are housed and treated or install live Web cameras on a website for the public to view.

Each city Ringling Bros. comes to, including Rochester, should install video cameras in the animal quarters to personally view Ringling Bros.’ supposedly humane treatment and hold it accountable for any mistreatment.

This is great, but League of Humane Voters of Rochester felt that the claim that they’d never been found in violation of the AWA had to be answered, and our letter was printed a few days ago:

Ringling Fine Wasn’t Mentioned

In a recent letter, a Ringling Brothers’ representative claims Ringling “has never been found in violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act.” But in 2011, Ringling was slapped with a $270,000 fine (the maximum allowed by law) for 27 violations.

In addition, the writer suggests people come to watch the show to see how the animals are thriving. Behind-the-scene abuse, however, is there for all to see online by Googling “Ringling abuse.”

Join the families who have said “no” to this sort of animal cruelty. Support non-animal entertainment as an act of compassion and support a proposed ordinance recently presented to the Rochester City Council that would ban animal circuses.

This was printed in the paper days before the circus came.  It was better before they edited it*, but see how easy it is to reach thousands of people with the truth?  It took me less than ten minutes to write those two letters, some time over the course of a day for our group to revise the second one, and probably forty seconds to submit it to the newspaper.

You can support our efforts here by starting or intensifying your own action in your city.  The more we can show that this is not a handful of local nuts but a worldwide movement of compassion and justice, the sooner we can end this nightmare.


* For the record, here is what we actually wrote to the newspaper, which was well within their LTE word count:

A representative of Ringling Brothers, Stephen Payne, recently wrote a letter to this newspaper defending the treatment of the animals under their care, saying Ringling “has never been found in violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act” and suggesting people come watch the show to see how the animals are thriving.

Mr. Payne failed to mention that in 2011 the USDA slapped Ringling Brothers with a $270,000 fine, the largest in the history of the Animal Welfare Act and the maximum allowed by law for what the USDA said was 27 violations.

And while it’s ridiculous to think that anyone could confirm what Ringling calls their “excellent record of animal care” by attending a public performance, the behind-the-scenes evidence of abuse is there for all to see online by Googling “Ringling abuse.”

If any of this makes you too uncomfortable to enjoy the circus, you’re not alone – Ringling continues to cancel performances (73 fewer than 2013 – a reduction of 12%) due to declining attendance.

Join the families who have said “no” to supporting this sort of animal cruelty and abuse. Support non-animal entertainment instead as an act of compassion – and support an ordinance banning animal circuses which was recently presented to the Rochester City Council.

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