Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Greatest Show on Earth

We went to the circus last night. The Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey "Greatest Show on Earth" circus and it was fun. Now I am a self-described "non-circus" person with the exception of the acrobatics that make my palms sweat and those were spectacular. What surprised me the most is how much I actually enjoyed the animal parts of the circus. The horses were gorgeous and the performing dog show was, in many ways, similar to the one that we saw in Sea World San Diego a few years back and I really enjoyed that.

All in all the only downer part of the evening was the group of sour faced protesters stationed at the main entrance and the fact that the circus wasn't actually held under a big top, but that is a different story. Since reading "Water for Elephants," I have been entranced with the notion of the big top. Also, I am old enough to have seen an actual circus under a big top and *sigh* I do miss those old fashioned things. Anyway, back to the protesters. I am given to understand, after completing my cursory Internet search, that the law suit that RBBB circus has managed to keep out of the courts since 2000 is indeed going to court. This suit involves alleged mis-treatment of the elephants.

On many levels I do consider myself to be an animal activist. But I think protesters, even a small group of them, at the circus is ridiculous. I realize that many of them have never travelled outside of the U.S. and been to countries where elephants are used as domestic labor and often treated very cruelly. It is certainly easier to station yourself outside of the doors of a commercial event in your own hometown rather than deal with the abuse of international animal trade. I get that.

But, in my humble opinion, the circus has gone quite P.C. since the big top days of old. What benefit does it give them to mis-treat their elephants. I might add, that at $60,000.00 per year for maintenance, these elephants are a huge investment for the circus. Like I said, I didn't expect to enjoy the elephants, tigers, horses and such as much as I did. I thought that I would be sitting in my seat thinking how much nicer it would be for these animals to roam free, not that they ever could, being too domesticated, at this point mind you.

At any rate, perhaps, probably, maybe there has been more recent elephant abuse in the circus. That is not up for me to answer. I know that the protesters at this event had a picture of one elephant and held posters proclaiming that this one elephant had been beaten to death. If that is true, than of course it is a damn shame. But their evidence was sketchy and limited and seemed a bit fabricated to me. It also disturbed the children and not in a good way. The animals on the floor inside of the event were beautiful and treated well during the performances.

Yes, people have come to enjoy animal free circuses. I am a fan of Cirque de Soleil. I did mention that I enjoy palm sweating acrobatics did I not? But as a sometimes old-fashioned American, I would I think miss the animal portion of RBBB circus. How many decades has this circus been around?

I hope that the outcome of the upcoming trial is fair. And if circus training practices need to change, than change they should and this may mean animal free RBBB circuses in the future. In the meantime images of painted elephants in India with numerous scars and limited nutrition will come to mind when I think of animal mistreatment, not the stunningly beautiful creatures that I witnessed at the circus last night.

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