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Friday, June 03, 2005

Circuses, zoos, and animal cruelty

The circus is in town, again. This time it’s Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. This isn’t their first time here, and as on previous visits, PETA - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - is here to protest them.

I know some people are rolling their eyes right now. PETA? Those PETA-philes? They should all be shot. Some people detest PETA because of their stance on animal testing and experimentation for medical purposes – and to an extent, these people have a point. There are some things you just can't determine without having a living, breathing organism as part of the trial, and some cases where that organism can’t be a human because of the risks involved. But there’s a hell of a lot of needless cruelty going on out there, and PETA is taking a stand against that. And I stand with them on these points.

There are also quite a few people who hate PETA because they have been instructed to hate PETA. There are a lot of standard speeches out there where you can just insert the words “Jews”, “Negroes”, “Communists”, “Catholics”, “Liberals”, “Democrats” or “PETA-philes” [a nifty turn of a phrase that conjures up images of pedophiles in the brainwashed masses] and get the desired effect. As of a November 2004 survey, the people who buy into this sort of thinking account for up to 51% of the voting population. Don’t judge PETA by what a bunch of “Conservative Talk-Show Hosts” have to say. Do a little digging on your own and see what you come up with.

PETA has valid points in their protests against circuses. Animals are not natural performers. Animals do not normally travel about in trucks and trains. And the documentation of cruelty is indisputable.

I don’t know if I’ve ever been to the circus. If I did, it was when I was a little kid and I can’t remember.

I have been to zoos, quite a lot of zoos. These have their own sort of cruelty. Animals are ripped out of their natural habitats (where, these days, they’re probably having a fairly crappy time of things anyway, what with the habitat destruction and poaching and encroachment and whatnot) and transported to faraway places where they either get rammed into cages reminiscent of prison cells, or get put into simulations of their natural environments, which is a little better than a cage but a lot worse that being wild and free in the natural environment.

But I think zoos have an intrinsic value. I have seen a giraffe and a lion and a leopard at Claws 'N' Paws in Pennsylvania, I have fed rays and looked down at a Hutt-like manatee at Sea World in Florida, and gawked at giant lava lamps full of jellyfish at the Norwalk Aquarium in Connecticut. I have seen gorillas and tapirs and Komodo Dragons at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and I have called a Sumatran Rhino and gone eye-to-eye with an emu at the Bronx Zoo.

I love animals, and I don’t think I would have ever gotten a chance to see any of these animals in person were it not for zoos. I think this is their intrinsic value: they can instill and cement a love for animals by allowing humans – children and adults - to encounter animals in person that they might never otherwise have an opportunity to see outside of the two-dimensional world of photographs, television, and computer screens.

But circuses? Maybe it would be better if we stuck with human performers. Humans can do some amazing things. And those female humans are pretty hot.

1 comment:

Betz said...

I agree! There was a time when I would not go to zoos because of the "cage" issue. But having a child who just BEGGED to see a lion has made me change my view.
PETA is right to protest circuses.

Yes, keep to human performers and magic tricks. :)