Circus aerialist and professional artist, Terry Bunton continues his passionate cry for reason against animal rights lunacy and the case for animal circuses...
What separates humans from other animal species is that we have a grammatical communication which has given us a way to educate future generations, form political alliances, play sports, cook our food, make personal choices through democracy, learn, pass exams to get qualifications, record the past, plan the future and organise the present. Yes, animals have memory and cognitive response to varying degrees, depending on species, but they do not have any of the above skills.
However, the animal rights dogma perverts the Darwinian path and often twists to ridiculously silly ideas. For example, amongst thesefundamentalist militants there are even a few of those who have concluded thatbecause chimpanzees are the closest to use genetically, they should be givenVOTING RIGHTS! Meanwhile uninformed pet owners and those who choose to eat meat and wear by-products such as shoes, belts and coats who are lured into supporting an animal rights campaign are unknowingly funding a dogma, which aims to take away these freedoms. Animal rights organizations are known for issuing aggressive propaganda targeted at parents and their children by declaring all meat-eaters to be murderers and the innocent practice of the family day out to the zoo or an animal circus to be a “wicked activity”.
Remember, the AR movement has threatened the lives of ALL of us on several occasions. Remember whenthey were in the news for poisoning Mars Bars and various other products? They couldn’t care less for you, your families or the planet. They want animal experiments to end too. NOT only cosmetic ones – we are talking about serious possibilities of finding cures for Alzheimer’s, mental illnesses, cancers and AIDS. I have openly been told by people in AR that they would happily let one of their children die and for nature to take its course rather than allow animal experiments to find cures to eradicate those diseases. God forbid that their child’s existence would cost the life of another being such as a rat or a primate to die. And what do they do to damage progress in scientific investigation into the eradication of terminal illnesses? They bomb and burn scientific labs, graffiti their houses, terrorise not only them but also their relatives. Yet it is scientists who have now stopped AIDS from being the death sentence it once was, have eradicated other illnesses and are on the cusp of understanding the causes of dementia and Alzheimer, two heart-breaking illnesses that destroy family life.
And what of the traditional two-centuries-old global phenomenon of circus? Circus is a place where man can learn more about creatures than in almost any other area where we come into contact with them.
On the accusation of training: Use of whip! These are NOT torture instruments but signalling tools. When one person is training and presenting to the public a ring full of elephants or cantering horses, he or she has to speak over music and place the whip in front of the lead animal to get the whole line to change manoeuvres. Various positions of this arm extension in the 13 meter diameter standard circus ring, through movement and reward association in the animals’ mind, indicate what is required of the animal through infinite patience and verbal praise at the merest improvement. Suffice to say a whipped elephant would kill a human in minutes.
Anyone who owns a cat knows that they cower when in fear. No one can claim that performing big-cats cower on entering a ring cage. In fact, they bound onto their pedestals with gusto. As for the claim that the teeth and claws are extracted is simply laughable. There is little evidence of this ever being a practice in UK circuses. The teeth are there for 2,000 witnesses, twice a day, to see as the lions, tigers or leopards snarl defiance from their pedestals during their number. Some cranks believe they are drugged. Carnivores are naturally sluggish creatures anyway, but would become manically dangerous killers under such conditions. They would also, of course, be incapable of leaping through hoops or from platform to platform
As for caging and transportation, let’s continue with big cats and bears. The mobile “beast wagons” are only sleeping quarters. Access to exercise cages is available to them most of the day. All hoofed stock lives in stable tents, but are put out to pasture during the day, on top of their regular morning exercise in the big-top. Elephants too have heated tents for the night, but by day enjoy adequate exercise areas surrounded by an electric cattle fence.
Animal transporters have to reach a required measurement and standard. These and various other rules are laid down the Association of Circus Proprietors. As a circus only moves weekly, doing journeys between thirty to 100 miles, the animals are only in these lorries for two or three hours anyway. Blood pressure tests by top circus vets David Taylor and Andrew Greenwood rove beyond any doubt that the mammals never suffer stress under travelling conditions. Another indication of the well-being of circus animals, particularly the big cats, is in their excellent breeding record. Circus lions and tigers produce dozens of cubs each season.
One accusation that upsets circus people more than any other is that of negligence. It is claimed that once the performance is over the animals are left in their quarters and forgotten. This is too ludicrous for anyone to believe, even with only an elementary understanding of animals.
Like acrobats, jugglers and clowns, animal trainers do their job through choice. They love their charges, finding them extremely rewarding and interesting. However, unlike speciality artists whose days are more relaxing once their acts are established, animal people have very hard work to do, every day of their careers. Being up at the crack of dawn their day is constant round of loving, feeding, watering, cleaning and exercising their beloved charges.
Big cats only live for 9 years in the wild on average today. In captivity they live for 25 years. In the wild cubs only eat once the adults have gorged and in times of drought or herd migrations can often starve to death. Such is the African and Asian utopia of the 1990s.
There has never been a successful prosecution leading to imprisonment of any trainer or groom for cruelty. Never once has a video or photograph been produced that actually proves cruelty exists, even in the Mary Chipperfield case. The campaigners have a favourite picture of an elephant standing on its huge head and front legs with the slogan “is this really necessary?” It doesn’t show cruelty, but, surprisingly, a perfectly natural stance for the animal (EXPLAIN WHY). And yes, natural movements in the guise of tricks ARE necessary if the public is to be made aware what dexterous, gentle animals these are. It might help them sympathise with the worthwhile campaign of stopping the disgusting ivory trade.
Another leaflet, that is as old as the hills, shows lions “cooped up” in one of the mobile beast wagons. These crackpots would not use a picture of the big-cats happily romping in the large exercise cages. Here they have logs and tyres to gambol about with, as “occupational therapy”.
The regimented routine the animals go through upsets the campaigners too. It may come as a surprise to them, but wild animals have a natural regimented routine too. They might live n the vast savannah, but have a surprisingly small territory. They always hunt at dusk and sleep all day. Most circus animals, however, are born in zoos, safari parks or indeed on tour. Mercifully, they know nothing of the burning African heat, open wounds inflamed with blood-sucking flies, starvation as the wild herds diminish yearly, and the terror of the poacher’s rifles – or those of legitimate culling teams.
The most ridiculous attack of all on circus is that animals in it lose their dignity, which apparently is “politically incorrect”. For one thing, nobody can force even a dog to do something it does not feel like doing. The odd animal that will not respond to kindness is sold off to a zoo or safari park. Most circus animals end their days in one of the many Safari parks like Knowsley, Woburn and Longleat anyway. Even these places require the expertise of ex-circus trainers, because they are the most knowledgeable about animal husbandry.
This dignity accusation often comes from the “blue rinse and annoyed of Tunbridge Wells brigade “Often these over-emotional people own dogs that are on the brink of cardiac arrest after a lifetime of being over stuffed with rubbish like chocolates. THAT is degrading. Dignity is only a human condition, not necessarily always a good one either. Do these stupid accusations actually mean that circus animals are embarrassed to perform when they openly excrete in the ring? That brings me to another point. At least we do not leave a mess when the show moves on, unlike many private dog owners.
It is high time that campaigners realised that it is less dignified to see a wild elephant being riddled with bullets, only to go down to have its tusks ripped out of their roots, than to see a content pachyderm performing natural balancing movement on cue.
Once someone told me that they felt the routines taught to our animals were unnatural. I explained that stallions, zebras and elephants for instance, rear up on one another’s backs to breed, and during pseudo-sex play. Horses also rear up to fight, bid cats leap to attack their prey, and sea lions balance fish on their snouts before the meal is thrown up to be caught in the animals throat. I stressed that if eve he saw an elephant trained to somersault, a sea-lion to skip or a tiger to balance a ball on its nose, only then would he be witnessing something unnatural.
Despite the fact that millions of people openly prefer animals in circuses, many councils in Britain see fit to ban our traditional entertainment from their land. This is futile as a private site can be rented in many towns where there bans exist. No council really has the right to ban a perfectly ethical, legal entertainment. Not before time, many types of council are lifting such bans due to the circus man’s protection of civil rights. This is supposed to be a democracy and yet, tax payers are denied the right to go to a circus by a committee of people who would not know one end of a camel from the other.
Antis say that today you can see plenty of wildlife programmes on television. Yet these very good documentaries are constantly full of doom and gloom about the species they are portraying. Some minor celebrities such as Virginia McKenna use their fame to get their circus cruelty message across. From McKenna this really goes against the grain, particularly as she took a lead role in the film Born Free, being handsomely paid to work alongside a trained lioness.
We have caused the destruction of some wonderful cultures such as Aborigines and American Indians. These races were at one with, and cherished nature. Sadly, our so-called civilised society is raping and polluting the earth at a terrifying rate. The RSPCA should spend their time campaigning against this, instead of putting out idiotic anti-performing animal leaflets of a male lion with a clown nose.
When has anyone ever seen a lion dressed as a clown in a circus? I know that the sick message is that all circus animals are supposedly made clowns out of. So if we are so barbaric, why can’t they produce proper evidence, instead of using this ridiculous imagery?
Many people realise that circus is a very valuable part of our heritage. Yet we are accused of making money out of animals as if this is some sort of crime. Are circus people meant to busk on the streets while their animals starve? Is it not better to see a professional show full of animals with great spirit and sleek shiny coats, visual evidence of their wellbeing?
On a final note, how can anyone at the end of the day really take this cruelty thing seriously? The government made cruelty a criminal offence decades ago If such a thing as “circus Belsen” really existed, surely all animal trainers and presenters would therefore be in prison. Many of these protesters you see outside big-tops could take a lesson from the way our animals are kept.
As more of the antis’ arguments fall down, they dream up new arguments to keep the money coming in for their “cause”. The latest futile attack on circuses is that some animals live in natural packs or herds and are left alone from their own kind in circuses. This particularly applies to small shows that may have a solitary elephant. Millions of people have a pet, often dogs. These dogs are often solitary but, like a single circus elephant, have abundant love and attention. Even some of the antis have pets, and some bring them to the protests. As dogs are pack animals, those antis are hypocrites.
If circuses and zoos were closed down for good, children would never know what it was like to see and smell a real live tangible elephant, Bengal tiger or chimpanzee. As adults, those deprived children would sadly miss the animals that we have on our planet now. Eventually, however, their material world would overshadow the loss. It would come to mean as little as the demise of the Dodo and the Quagga do to us. That would be not only sad, but a chain reaction threat to our own existence in the balance of life. It would be as tragic as the last expanses f the wonderful rain forest being felled forever.
Animal rights protesters can easily fool a public who do not have a knowledge of circus animals, their keeping, feeding and training. Over the decades circus people have been deliberately mysterious about the training because they were appreciated for an undeniable skill and patience that is undoubtedly there. However, a certain mystique is added to this that is (or was) as beneficial for animal acts magical skills as is that of an illusionist. Showmen were frightened of the public knowing that not only were all animal routines based on natural habits of the wild, but that those movements simply fell into a routine through bribing the animals. Through their main motive of survival, their stomach, the animals, just like pet dogs, will thrive on a trained routine, especially as the simple test of putting natural habits into a cued routine means delicious morsels above and beyond a good regular diet. Any animal will do simple feats for food, as any human has a price for certain things.
If the technical physical workings of an illusion act are blown, it takes the element of surprise, and therefore interest, away. This was the train of thought regarding animal acts too, and sadly now, this deeply rooted belief needs desperately to be reversed. Open animal training sessions, proper text and information of the creatures’ training techniques, diet, accommodation and all the hard work needs to be readily available in circus programme brochures. Leaflets need to be handed out wherever protesters are, to tell the true story. Until this happens it is so easy for the animal rights movement, which will always use the circus lobby for political gain and profit, to thrive. Let’s face it, accusations such as animal exploitation for profit, “animal Belsen”, “mad captive animal syndrome”, sharp tools used on animals, circus cruelty, degradation and all their other slanderous slogans can be easily believed if not challenged when in black and white.
If the gutter press can all but destroy our cherished institutions in a world that seems to get darker by the year, how can circus survive? Yet the animal protesters and old crocks have all the time in the world to edit and construct their emotive, pleading, lying propaganda. They do not own elephants, carnivores, horses or exotics, so do not understand logically why in a disappearing natural world that is now no longer a wildlife utopia, that a working relationship with man is NOT politically incorrect. To keep what are naturally lazy carnivores in cages (with exercise areas) is also NOT incorrect. To keep elephants chained at the leg at night (with plenty of exercise by day in and out of the ring) is also not incorrect.
Let the owners of circus elephants, horses and carnivores carry on teaching them to perform because in seeing animals acts, animals and the understanding of them is glamorised in a way impossible on a wildlife programme or in a zoo. Let circus folk love, exercise and feed these creatures. They know best, having worked and loved their charges for the best part of the last millennium. Are the government and society at large actually going to let this brilliant animal interaction be banned in a world where the majority of the world’s creatures are threatened with extinction like never before? In reality it is an animals’ greater right to be conserved in zoos, circuses and wildlife parks where food and love are guaranteed in a world that allows such creatures’ habitats to disappear under the mess of our urban sprawl and vile waste. In fact, circus owes it to animals on our behalf to give them a safe haven after what society has done to the world at large. The long established Ginnett’s circus recently pitched on a town racecourse with their performing pony and a local councillor tried to ban them, on the same site where horses are regularly whipped hard to win because gambling money is at stake!.
Circus The Truth was formed to counteract the misinformation spread by the animal rights agenda but in addition to fighting the corner for circus animals I think there is also a further need to promote and celebrate the circus in general, especially in Great Britain. http://www.facebook.com/groups/circusthetruth/