Thursday, November 10, 2005

Three Ring Circus....No more.

T HE shop window poster tells the story. "Stardust Circus. Bonython Park, September 29 to October 23. Australia's largest and best animal circus. Two performing elephants, five lions." As well as monkeys and ponies.This is 2005. Isn't it time we stopped making exotic animals perform crude tricks for our amusement and entertainment? It is cruel, degrading and unnecessary. The barbaric exploitation of defenceless animals.
I am sure the Stardust Circus makes every effort to look after its animals and meet all the demands of the RSPCA. But these beautiful creatures are caged or tethered for 23 hours a day.
Their only respite from boredom is to be thrust into the glare of the circus ring and made to stand on their hind legs, jump through hoops or spring on and off cantering horses. Whips crack, music blares, applause envelopes. This is no place for animals.
No matter how many times these animals have performed, no matter how familiar with the spotlight they have become, it is an unnatural environment created specifically for the edification of the audience.
Making the Stardust elephants, Gigi and Ama, go through their monotonous routine is little better than forcing noble European bears, their noses pierced by steel rings, to dance on heated metal plates. It is only one step away from a degrading human freak show.
As a society we should recognise that forcing exotic animals to perform is wrong.
Unnecessary animal cruelty and exploitation is a critical commentary of the society which condones it.
To argue that performing animals should be retained because they are a traditional element of circus life is transparent nonsense. It should be outlawed. Politically that may not be popular but it is right.
Circus management will argue that the animals enjoy performing. They are stimulated by the activity. It is a way of protecting endangered species. And in any case, audiences love to see elephants and lions inside the big top.
People will always gawk at the unusual, the bizarre. We are, by nature, voyeurs. If cockfighting, live hare coursing or dog fighting were legalised, people would watch. But these activities have properly been banned because they are cruel and undignified.
Performing circus animals, particularly exotic animals, are no different. They are a throwback to another, cruder age of human evolution. While we, as a community, allow it to happen, people will pay their money to watch in fascination.
I have no grievance with Stardust or any other circus. They are operating within the law. It is a legitimate way of running a profitable business.
What is required now is a political party, or at least a single politician, courageous enough to legislate to end this cruel exploitation. It is the logical next step in the creation of a gentler, more sympathetic culture.
Circuses such as Stardust have clowns, trapeze artists, even lion tamers. In most cases these jobs require a high degree of skill and an element of risk. But the people involved are doing it by choice.
Elephants, lions and monkeys – and to a lesser extent domesticated horses – have no choice.
In life's lottery they have been denied the freedom of the jungle or the savannah and, instead, have been forced to live in a tiny, dark mobile cage or tethered by chains to a steel stake in the ground.
It is clearly wrong. It is time we accepted, as a civilised society, that it is wrong. I intend no criticism of the Stardust Circus which I am sure is an honourable operation.
It is a criticism of society itself. Forcing exotic animals to perform in circuses must no longer be regarded as acceptable.
So, do you enjoy the Circus?

till next time, Michelle.


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