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Circus' At Risk of Losing Exotic Animals!

Discussion in 'The Clown Café' started by yeehaw, Nov 9, 2011.

  1. Snoetje

    Snoetje Well-Known Member

    Here in Holland exotic animals in the circus are forbidden since this year. Just like most of europe. I'm glad. :)
    I enjoy circus shows more without them. People invent creative ways to make it entertaining and they use other animals you didn't see much in the circus before. :D I think dog acts (for example) are more fun to see than a sad lonely elephant walking in circles. :'(
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2015
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  2. Indecisive

    Indecisive Active Member

    Maybe they will invest in more domestic animals like horses and dogs. They should get another goat. Or even get more human performers.

    When I saw the circus in '08 they had tigers, elephants, dogs and horses.
  3. Barry Daft (Mr. B. Daft)

    Barry Daft (Mr. B. Daft) Old Bucket Spitter

    I don't think it was ever a case of seeing sad old elephants walking around in circles. Circuses such as Ringling's have a fine tradition of putting on incredible, spectacular and awe inspiring shows, which is precisely why some here wanted to see it continue. The audience was never in the past, aware of he inhumanity and suffering which routinely goes on behind the scenes, to create those shows. With the public's growing awareness of both what these animals lives are like in captivity and how they naturally occur in the wild, the time was always going to come when society says "Enough is enough".

    And while the future may or may not be so rosy for the individual elephants in the Feld Inc. herd, I do think it is time to celebrate this small victory in the name of humanity.
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  4. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel

    There was a lot of, understandable, angst among the traditional circus community when this announcement was made. But, in my view, more heat than light.

    Indeed, I rarely find any substantive discussion about the actual issues of importance involved; instead opting to simply rant against PETA or engage in tit for tat on surface stuff, without digging deeper to underlying philosophies, anthropologies, ideologies, and agendas.

    One of the only commentators who seems to get it and articulates anything worth reading or offers advice that supporters of circus animals could use (and ought take up) here provides a few words of wisdom:


    A much more extended analysis and essay from a decade ago, offering suggestions which I honesty can't say I've ever seen anyone accept or employ, unfortunately, is a solid read, if you can afford about an hour:


    Last edited: Mar 15, 2015
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  5. V

    V Well-Known Member

    Both sources contain quite a few issues - especially in their broad and general groupings of 'activists,' but I'll respond on each in turn. Response may be slow incoming since I'm holding a button mashing 6 month old and may require a few edits and re-visits. Be patient if this looks like an initial train wreck. I'll get back to it. ;)

    'A Mudshow Season'

    The most obvious issue is the generalization that all activists prefer extinction to captivity.

    Simply not true.

    There are extremists that likely hold that view, especially in groups like PETA, but for the most part that's simple propaganda. The article itself is relatively short and is largely theory so it's difficult to discuss without playing the 'what if' game. It contains some good points - especially mentioning the idea that this was a marketing campaign more than a political one, but also has a lot of generalities and inaccuracies. Despite the endorsement of it not being a rant, it seems to be skirting the edge of one.

    Further, it essentially suggests that circuses are the best place for elephants (maybe it said the best place to see elephants) and discounts zoos and sanctuaries that have had some success. *Disclaimer - some zoos are atrocious and simply need to be shut down or overhauled. Despite that, a select few have successful management and programs and probably should have some sort of endorsement rather than a general categorization with other less reputable establishments. Sanctuaries are the same I guess, you have some that are terrible and are known to be such, but they still seem to slide by. Some legitimate sanctuaries as well that fit the zoo argument above. It's difficult to visit most sanctuaries but not impossible so if the argument is about the best place to see elephants - they probably aren't it.

    The article wraps up with some political fervor that isn't really relevant but also doesn't help his case unless you're all ready a supporter of the idea I suppose. Either way I'd probably give it a B- or C+ and suggest addressing the concept without the extreme examples. I know both sides do it, but most people see rhetoric for what it is and don't really take it seriously.

    The real anti-circus agenda-by Ben Trumble

    His 'part 1' is simple rage towards animal welfare groups and he goes into putting all animal rights persons into a liberation camp and then further puts them into groups like ALF or PETA. All this shows is a basic misunderstanding of the argument as a whole and I'd almost guarantee that articles like this aren't going to do anything except gain applause from like-minded people. It's basic trumpeting to have people who feel the same way tell them how great their article was. If it makes them feel better about themselves - great. If they're trying to recruit independent voters - not sure this is going to help.

    Like the article before it, the author gives examples of extremist groups (Peta, etc) doing extremist things. Most animal advocates aren't peta members or supporters and many see them as being just as radical as pro-circus types do. No doubt about it that PETA is pretty shitty, but they're big and have a bank roll and sometimes they pick a cause that aligns with other animal rights types. Not sure if that warrants lumping everyone together.

    Part 1 of this article is PETA this, PETA that. Basically the only reason elephants are going away is because of PETA, not because Circuses have a shoddy track record. Fact is that all theses videos of animal abuse wouldn't be out there if it didn't happen. Not likely it happens 24/7 but is also isn't like there has been one isolated incident at one circus ever. Despite the authors attempt to list all of these groups, their efforts and examples, I'm not sure he understands the debate in it's entirety.

    Part 2 comes across as more rhetoric on how we're all "Liberationists!" This guy...

    One of his examples of people not understanding the training process of elephants is that elephants don't understand 4-letter words (no shit genius) and that people focus on the trainer cussing at an elephant in many of the 'secretly taped' abuse videos.

    Right. Nevermind the bull ankusha, electric shock, physical beating, and so forth that has been documented. It's the harsh language that we find offensive.

    Many more examples of generalization and inaccuracies that I can (and may) address later that again, seem to come from a fundamental misunderstanding of the issue.
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  6. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel

    (Emphasis mine)

    Sadly, I don't think it's so. Instead, it seems that all too often the rhetoric (from both/all sides) is mostly effective at inflaming emotions rather than provoking any sort of serious thought. Which is what I find most distressing. At best, it usually serves to reinforce or solidify preset notions instead of extending reflectivenesss or pursual of greater depth of understanding.

    While you and I disagree about much in these areas, I do appreciate that we can, at least, engage in a dialectic promoting such an appreciation of ideas and perspectives. I think it would be valuable for more people who are concerned about these matters to attempt the same.

    In general, I would agree that there is a larger picture, and more nuance, as to what is going on with those who are against animals in circuses and other captive environments. It would be valuable to bring a wider understanding of such to the table of discussion.

    Remember that this particular article is ten years old, and sought to outline some of the critical historical background which influenced the changing tide of public concern up until then. (I have seen separate comments of his, more recently, which suggests that he is well aware of continued developments and perspectives...better than most from these environments.) As such, I do believe that it offers some valuable perspective which goes well beyond the simple dismissive norm in discussion of either its time or even now.

    That said, I do very much believe that advocates of circus and zoo animals must do a better job of making their rhetorical case to the general population. I, also, believe that there is a particular need to become better involved in such dialectic in academic environments, both for repute and respectability as well as to influence leaders who will influence and make decisions about these things in coming years and decades. (This paragraph belonged after the following quote. I'll fix that in editing later..it's difficult to cut and paste on my phone)

    I don't think recruiting independents, here, is the purpose of this particular essay. Rather, it seeks to present to the traditional circus communities (and their traditional thinking) a challenge to look at the issues at play from a wider perspective which they had, as of the time and even now, failed to properly perceive, in order to more effectively respond to the situation.

    This is a reality that I think needs to be better appreciated and articulated.

    Though noting historical development and connections, which involve movements such as PETA, is also worthwhile.

    Exempting the reality that the videos available are well known to be highly edited and decontextualized in order to provoke and promote a perspective, I do believe that the article's author later recommends acceptance of responsibility for any genuine mis-steps that, indeed, have occurred from time to time in places and the establishment of best standards practices to discourage and penalize any real offenses in moving forward. Indeed, simply dismissing rather than engaging these issues has shown itself counterproductive. More attention ought to be given (both, internally, within the animal husbandry and exhibition industries as well as in public education and publicity campaigns) to these sort of efforts, in order to both be (and be perceived as) proactive and progressive. Industry leaders must lead the efforts and the conversation, rather than merely respond or be defensive.

    What would you recommend to promote or forward a proper understanding and appreciation of the larger debate?

    I think that his essential point is, indeed, that there are underlying issues which go well beyond these sort of oft cited particular invectives that are essential to understand if we want to engage in effective dialectic here over what is really at play.

    As such, he starts to at least move the conversation in the right direction, more than most, even if it may be perceived by some as incomplete or not entirely accurate.
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2015
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  7. V

    V Well-Known Member

    Agreed. However, I think even in a small community such as we have on this forum, zeal often gets in the way of genuine conversation. As example, go back and look at the threads on this topic. Almost all of them are titled something that is hostile to the thought of any change towards the care of circus animals.

    I know this is, in general a pro-circus crowd but it's difficult to deny there was outright bias towards keeping the status quo despite evidence that the animal husbandry of travelling shows could improve drastically. It appeared simply as blind eyes screaming loudly to prevent change simply because you can't be a clown that thinks poorly of the circus industry. I'm sure you remember the drama on this topic from a few years back (ie. the moderation here giving the my way or highway thread closure - albeit eventually corrected).

    Obviously, not everyone who wants to keep exotics in the circus are clown based but I'm just sampling our community here. It gets foggy after that as paid lobbyists (both sides) and such start getting involved. My point is that the conversation, for one reason or another, gets heated and people seem to default to their extreme point of view. I've stated in similar threads that I'm not so much anti-animals in circus so much as being against them in the current conditions. I'll elaborate with a similar situation at the bottom of this reply.

    A few points here. First, the author of one of these articles offers a backhanded dismissal of sorts to the idea of this conversation in academic environments with his (whichever it was, the articles aren't open) point of view that academics are basically teaching liberal propaganda that is anti-circus. I know he mentions is a bi-partisan issues, but you get the idea. If you mean general intelligent conversation on the topic, I revert to my first post that extremism seems to take over too quickly to reach an accord.

    Maybe, but the article still seems like a rallying of like-minded individuals rather than an attempt to open dialog. Maybe it's boas on my end, but I find many more animals rights guys who aren't aligned with PETA or other groups that are critical of PETA than say, pro-circus types who are willing to cite the 'good works' that soe of these groups achieve. It's a pov that PETA is all lies and deceit and they're taking our animals, rather than a dialog that admits short comings (genuinely, not just in passing) and a willingness to compromise. Obviously, both sides have this and again - zeal gets in the way.

    Some of them are probably, if not factually doctored. Say 50% of them are. Say 75% of them are. That still leaves a lot of evidence that isn't across a variety of circus organizations.

    I still don't know that a statement that animal welfare types are secretly trying to destroy all of Earths species rather than have them on display helps open doors to communication across the aisle to speak. It's simply difficult for me to get on board and respect someone's ability to intelligently communicate when they have something like that in their opening dialog, especially when the topic at hand is by nature, going to be a debate. It comes across as rabble rousing and an attempt to rally their base rather than have earnest and worthwhile conversation - despite ideological differences.

    Somewhere on this forum I offered up an idea that I'd like to be able to take my kids to a circus to see animals that are well taken care of but I don't think the animals as a whole are in that place right now. As a result, I'd rather the situation be that animals are removed and circus can try to win them back rather than animals staying in place and we keep working towards a better quality of life for them. I think there has to be steeper financial penalties for offenders in that they lean towards bankruptcy rather than an inconvenience. Financial impact has to be the answer but even then I don't know how it would work. The oversight would need to come from an independent agency - but who?

    (here's the analogy I promised)

    I brought this up to a potential congressman in Virginia when I still lived there - dealing with the animal welfare act proposed around the same time as the Ringling Brothers trial a few years back. His basic solution was to have federal inspectors like they do at horse shows.

    Reference to that - I've been around horses basically my entire life. Training, riding, competing (from the time I was a year old until I was in my early thirties). At horse shows, they have federal inspectors (DQPs) that are basically there to inspect 'Walking Horses' because many trainers use a chemical to burn them to achieve a certain gait. The fines are hefty and there are suspensions and the potential to lose your animals if a DQP finds you in fault.

    Because the horse who community was relatively small (especially in the 70s-80s) I personally knew people who used these training methods. My mom before me was a horse trainer, and my grandfather before her - so we had been in the industry for some time and essentially knew everyone. Some of the people who used these methods were family friends and neighbors and it was fact that they trained their horses this way.

    What would happen is that they would pull into a horse show grounds and find out if there was a DQP. Since everyone knew each other it was easy to find out and if there was one on sight - the person would simply leave his animal on his horse trailer and not compete at that show. Sometimes they would make it through the inspection by doctoring the wounds. Sometimes they could bribe the inspector, and sometimes they got fined and suspended. They didn't however, stop using their method because the fines were smaller than prize money and they could circumvent suspensions by having a friend of family member show their horse. Most of them had multiple animals so even losing a horse wasn't earth shattering. This was happening when guys were passing out 50s or 100s so I imagine a company that sells out arenas could offer quite a bit more by way of lining a pocket (in theory). The moral of the story is that history leans towards these inspectors simply not working from a number of causes - corruption, under funding, poor education, social networking (and 'good old boys' systems) and so forth and nobody from any side of the argument has a system that will work so that leaves us with the argument of how we should be treating our animal wards (and not liberating all of them despite what the reference authors suggest)

    For arguments sake, assume that happens then we have a system where there are laws protecting the animals and people believe them to be working. I agree with the authors that this fight is decades old and another failed system would only prolong the fight for decades more. That defaults to my point of a preference of having circuses prove themselves to be worthy caretakers rather than telling everyone they are despite compelling evidence to the contrary.
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2015
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  8. V

    V Well-Known Member

    Final performance for Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey elephants tomorrow starting at 7:45pm est.

    Ringling is live streaming it for those who may be interested - https://www.facebook.com/RinglingBros/
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  9. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel

    Just a word on this, as everything I have heard from people in the animal industry (and, especially, concerning elephants) over the past ten years or so indicates the exact opposite. That is, they consider government inspection to be especially heavy handed, a bit intrusive, sometimes not based upon solid recognized practice (but, instead, thought of as ideologically influenced), and often unfair to animal owners and their keep. The penalties and negotiations over such are usually aimed more at destruction of business and forfeiture of animals, rather than the taking of remedial action for the welfare of the animals.

    So, really, it would seem that what we already have in practice is, in fact, largely in line with what you would want.

    I also must note that while an organization like Feld certainly has a lot of money to spend widely on its own political activism, most circus animals are owned independently by trainers with much more limited budgets. That said, an elephant is not an inexpensive investment, with one often costing, say, $80,000. As is often argued among circus supporters, "Why would an owner risk such a significant investment by providing poor care?" Considering, simply, the business consequences (let alone any imposed financial penalties) of losing an animal to compromised health, there is a lot of sense behind this statement. Does it happen that, still, certain trainers allow things to get out of hand, and fail to provide best care? Yes. But, they're pretty damn stupid for letting that happen. Should some be, therefore, driven out of business? Indeed. But, ought the baby be thrown out with the bathwater, and respectable owners also get caught up in a campaign to rid elephant (or other exotic animal) exhibition, when they are offering a reasonable (and, possibly, even very good) service to both animal and humans based upon best standards and practices? Well, why? Who does that serve? Certainly not the endangered species.
  10. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel

    I wrote this reflection earlier this year, and thought today this would be an appropriate place to share it again:

    Every November, the circus comes to Chicago. Just as it has since I was a kid. And I, traditionally, attend. Sometimes more than once, over their four week stay.

    But there were no repeat returns for me this time, after the initial visit. In fact, a friend who was working on the show even asked whether they'd see me again in the weeks to come.

    I, simply, said, "No."

    What I didn't say was that I wanted to remember that night. Just like it is. I couldn't improve on the experience.

    I suspected, then, that it was the last time I would see elephants presented by Ringling. And, today, my instincts were confirmed.

    The display these days aren't what they used to be. A couple of years ago, while watching the act, I excitedly exclaimed to a friend, sitting adjacent, "Here comes the long mount!" Then said, under my breath - lamenting, "Not much of a mount." The four ladies standing upon their sisters' backs was a long way from the twenty some animals who filled the floor in the days of Gunther; which, itself, must have seemed to pale in comparison to the forty elephants some saw decades ago.

    There are differing views on the travel and exhibition of exotic animals who aren't native to America; some supporting the over hundred year practice, others thinking it outdated or even cruel.

    Despite whatever one's own perspective is (and whether I personally agree or not), I'll admit that it may, indeed, be time for the retirement of these specific herds. The show seems to have run its course. I am thankful that their early buyout package includes the chance to extend their opportunity to breed, and prolong the species' lifespan on earth.

    I'm also glad, grateful, and honored to have experienced them in the sort of live interaction which is becoming more rare in our time. The children of tomorrow will not likely see what the elders of today (yesterday's kids) came to appreciate. But, I trust, some will carry it forward and keep our commitment, as humans, to the respect and relationship with this elegant species that so many, and myself, have known.
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  11. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel

    Should Auld acquaintance be forgot
    And never brought to mind
    Should auld acquaintance be forgot
    And Auld Lang Syne
  12. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel

    I might argue that the other peg has already been undermined, and has been for some time. Clown acts I have found enjoyable and effective on that production company's shows, in particular, have been few and far between, despite talented individuals who could do so much more, if they were really allowed and enabled with the opportunity.
  13. Custard

    Custard New Member

    There was some very ugly scenes here not that long ago with protesters at a circus.
    Circus Belly Wein was in Dublin and there was some serious confrontations. A few members of the circus were arrested and a few protesters injured.


    To be fair the protesters aren't the nicest of characters either and I'd understand the circus wanting to keep them away from the animals in case they were released. (A man was killed by an escaped circus elephant in my hometown once.) But this is just ridiculous carry on from both sides.
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  14. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel

    Do you hear what I hear?

    (And why r we Christmas caroling in August?)
  15. Sir Toony Van Dukes

    Sir Toony Van Dukes Well-Known Member

    I sometimes wonder if the problem was the $15 sno-cones. How does a little ice in a $2 cup cost that much? Taking a family of four out to the circus gets expensive when you add in all of the little extras that cost more than the tickets did.

    I am not a 4-year-old but I don't know how much of the circus is really designed to entertain little kids? Do they care about the dancing and parading around? Even I get bored with the length of some of the acts. Others, which I would want to watch have too many people and things to see to focus on any one item.

    I have no idea what they pay a clown to perform in the circus, but I always figured that you could pay one clown if you sell 10 tickets.
  16. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel

    Oh, I've already heard it, too. Writing on the wall.

    Actually, I'm sort of surprised Ringling is actually auditioning for and expecting to retain a ringmaster, at this point.

    A few years ago, I was at a performance where they added the First of Mays into the opening, along with the regulars. It was wonderful. Wow, a floor full of clowns! Over twenty of them. What a difference! Ah, yes, I remember those days when it wasn't the extraordinary, but the norm.

    As far as attendance, I used to have regular conversations with a (now deceased) retired circus owner. When I told him about a show I had seen, he always wanted to know two things: how was attendance and where/what kind of marketing was used.

    At this point, I think I'd actually welcome the traditional European entree, with four experienced commediens. Alas, all we get left with on some shows is the solo clown. Some of whom are quite outstanding, admittedly. When they start singing baudy songs the audience I will know that, truly, performance and life is a circle.
  17. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel

    Maybe for the entire week!

    Often, it's the coloring books, balloons, and snow cones which are the real money makers for both performers and owners, alike.
  18. tim

    tim Have red nose, will travel

    A fairly substantive article, and thoughts, from a journalist who was allowed access to Ringling's Elephant Center and spent some time backstage with the tour shortly before the elephants were retired:


    As for contemporary clowning, well there is a dancing trio on Universoul which actually makes sort of crazily effective use of rainbow wigs and portrays themselves as clowns. Though, their look might make Pinkberry cry.
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  19. V

    V Well-Known Member

    Interesting enough narrative.

    imho - Feld (and his elephant cronies by extension) is still a piece of shit.
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