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The Sun letter to the editor: Do we really know what goes on behind the scenes at the circus?


An elephant, dressed in anklets and headdress, balances on a small ball. A tiger jumps through a ring of fire. Recent photos of those animals in The Sun speak volumes of what’s wrong with them being part of a circus.

The Shriners’ repeated statements that they love animals does little to ease the concerns of people who’ve become aware of harsh training techniques that former animal trainers and undercover videos have revealed.

One has to wonder how the Shriners can know for sure that the elephants they have in their circuses haven’t been subjected to such brutal training methods. The circus animals are not owned by Shrine, but hired to perform for their circuses, so it’s doubtful they were present, during initial training sessions.

Even if, by some miracle, the elephants and tigers hired to be in the Shrine Circus got trained in a humane manner to do unnatural things like balancing on balls and jumping through fire, the way that circus animals are forced to live is wretched, to say the least.

Spend some time watching documentaries of how elephants and tigers live in the wild. It becomes quite obvious circus life can’t be a quality one for them. It’s a life of confinement, from the trucks and trains they must travel many miles in, to the small areas they are restricted to, once in arenas.

Wild tigers are solitary predators that hunt, swim and lie in tall grasses. In a circus, their lives are cages, other tigers, whips and unnatural tricks.

Elephants roam for miles, grazing and playing in lakes and streams. They are extremely intelligent animals that are known for helping other elephants in trouble and for grieving their dead.

We’re told that the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and federal agencies inspect the captive animals for signs of neglect. The animals are well-fed and well-cared for.

Well, human prisoners are well-fed and well-cared for, too. Yet they don’t want to live in captivity. Humans are in prison to punish them, because they’ve been found guilty of crimes.

The only crimes elephants and tigers are guilty of is being entertaining and profitable to humans. It seems those who “love animals,” but patronize or sponsor circuses with exotic animals, are inadvertently punishing the very animals they profess to love.

It’s hard to argue that Shriners don’t do great things for children. What is arguable is that the Shriners need elephants and tigers for a successful fundraiser.

They already have a long list of human entertainers in their circus. With a little more work and ingenuity, surely they could find many other ways to entertain, without animals.

The Shrine Circus Committee invited critics to come out and give us a try. Animal Advocates of Western New York would like to take them up on this invitation.

However, the facts of how elephants and tigers are meant to live already show that circus life is one of deprivation for these animals. Rarely are non-circus folks privy to what goes on behind the scenes.

Animals in Entertainment Committee
Animal Advocates of WNY

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