The student news site of Clayton High School.

The Globe

The student news site of Clayton High School.

The Globe

The student news site of Clayton High School.

The Globe

Highs and Lows: For animals, it’s no circus

It was strange sight to see.  Looking out the window of the Kansas City convention center, down onto the cold, rain-stricken street, I saw an elephant.  It was not roaming free, knocking off pedestrians with its trunk – which surely would have been more exciting – but was instead lying casually on the sidewalk, enjoying a bath administered by a man standing next to it with a power washer.  Like I said – a very strange sight to see.

A circus elephant gets bathed with a power washer on a Kansas City sidewalk, a sideshow for journalism convention attendees. (Dawn Androphy)
A circus elephant gets bathed with a power washer on a Kansas City sidewalk, a sideshow for journalism convention attendees. (Dawn Androphy)

I learned that the elephant was part of a traveling circus that was holding a show at the enormous exhibition hall adjacent to the convention center, where I was attending a journalism conference. Later I would see a cage in the street being tended by employees of the circus that held a Bengal tiger, a female lion and a white tiger.  The great cats bustled around in their enclosure, nudging and budging their cellmates.

To the casual observer marveling at the great beasts it may have all seemed innocent enough.  I, too, was sucked into the shock and awe of seeing an elephant lying on its side on the pavement.  But in reality what I saw was little more than a sad reminder of what the circus has long been and still remains: a prison and, accusations suggest, a virtual torture chamber for animals.

Animal rights groups have long assailed the circus as inhumane.  Claims of disease proliferation and conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis arising amongst the animals are common, as are allegations of trainer abuse and mistreatment.  I cannot confirm or deny these specific charges, but I can state the obvious.  A Bengal tiger is not meant to be in a small cage with two other cats in the middle of a street in Kansas City.  An elephant is not meant to be bathed with a power washer.  And these animals are not meant to be shipped across the nation in boxcars and trailers and 18-wheelers in spaces so small they can’t turn around.

The circus needs to change to adapt to new societal values that have developed since the modern show’s inception hundreds of years ago.  We don’t need to go to the circus to see exotic animals – that’s why we have the zoo and, more likely, the Discovery Channel.  And the tricks and stunts pulled off by the animals at the circus aren’t nearly as exciting as they were 50 or 100 years ago, before the age of technology.  The circus should focus more on human talent – acrobatics, gymnastics, juggling, fire-swallowing and the like – which are always crowd pleasers.

The circus has had its run, but it is becoming more obsolete with each passing year.  It is high time for the show to stop its practices of animal imprisonment and probable abuse and adopt a more human-centered program.  For once you get over the euphoria of seeing a tiger just feet away from you, and once the smile induced by seeing an elephant’s belly being sprayed as it wags its tail fades away, your heart sinks with the weight of .  And that feeling is the most important thing I discovered at a journalism conference.

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Highs and Lows: For animals, it’s no circus