The Circus: Entertainment in the Form of Abuse

The Zor Shrine Circus is coming to the Alliant Energy Center this February, and it seems a prompt time to re-establish a critical tone when determining the value and quality of the ‘Big Top’. For many children growing up, the circus is a place of wonder, where the impossibly dangerous is accomplished. But any adult that can see behind that red and white striped tent flap can understand the truth of the matter- a circus is unhealthy, unethical, and inhumane for all the animals involved. 

Although human freak shows have almost entirely disappeared, animal circuses otherwise continue relatively unchanged. Animals in circuses are still deprived of their basic needs to exercise, roam, socialize, forage, and play. Signs of their mental anguish include a plethora of stereotypical behaviors, such as swaying, pacing, bar-biting, and self-mutilating. Sometimes these animals lash out, injuring and killing trainers, caretakers, and members of the public. They’re transported for up to 50 weeks a year in stifling, cramped, and dirty trailers and train cars and are forced to perform confusing and physically challenging tricks, such as standing on their heads, riding bicycles, or jumping through rings of fire. Elephants are often beaten with heavy batons with a sharp metal hook on the end, sometimes until they bleed, until they perform unnatural or dangerous tricks. They lose all the privileges that make their lives meaningful and become depressed and despondent- some even hurt themselves. In the wild, these animals would be ranging long distances and enjoying rich social lives.

Let me clarify- I’m not condemning circuses. I just believe that an animal-free circus is the only ethically acceptable option, because contributing to the success and profits of an animal circus makes you complicit in the abuse and misery that those animals have lived through. So maybe this month, instead of taking a trip to see the flying monkeys and amazing balancing elephants at Zor Shrine Circus, you and your family hit the movie theater instead.


By Brynn Sailing

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