Animal Emotions

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Circuses: Wild Animals Do Not Belong in the Cruelest Show on Earth

Please support HR 3359 to stop the abuse of animals for "entertainment."

Every now and again I learn of a formal move to make the lives of animals better, and none could be more needed and timely than a new pending bill that is geared to ban wild animals in traveling circuses. HR 3359 has been introduced to do just that (see also). Circuses are indeed among the cruelest shows on Earth but the public is not privy to what goes on behind the scenes. Countless sentient animals suffer in silence and the heartless abuse goes on and on because the cries of the animals go unheard. Animals are "broken" to the point that they become totally submissive because they can't stand the pain. A detailed article about the deep and enduring suiffering of circus animals in Mother Jones is a very informative read but it will likely make you teary, as it did me. Other images of abuse can be found here and here and here

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A chained circus elephant (From Born Free USA)

To quote from the news release from Animal Defenders International in support of this most timely and needed legislation, "The bill was introduced by Congressman James Moran (D-VA) together with 9 other original sponsors: Rep. Bob Filner (D-CA), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Rep. Nick Rahall, II (D-WV), Rep. Steven Rothman (D-NJ), Rep. Fortney Pete Stark (D-CA), Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Rep. Bill CW Young (R-FL). There is now a rush to cosponsor, and we have bi-partisan support! The bill will effectively end the use of wild animals in traveling circuses in the United States. This is tightly targeted to exotic and non-domesticated species in traveling circuses—it does not affect zoos, rodeos, or static shows, or facilities where the animals live in permanent accommodation and travel out for film or television— these are exempt provided there is no live public exhibition involved. When animals are transported, they cannot be traveled for more than 12 hours at a time, and if they are to be taken to be used in a show, they must not have been used for the previous 15 day period. This removes the option to keep these animals constantly traveling around the US for months at a time. This has been carefully constructed to deal with the most egregious cases and is intended to be a progressive step."

One of the bill's main sponsors, Rep. James P. Moran Jr (D-Va.) said, "Based upon publicly available research, including video and photographic evidence, it is clear that traveling circuses cannot provide the proper living conditions for exotic animals ... Keeping elephants in chains, confining lions and tigers in small cages, forcing them to perform unnatural tricks for the sole purpose of human amusement is increasingly difficult to justify the more we learn about these intelligent, social creatures."

Circuses do nothing for the animals themselves or for other members of their species despite claims to the contrary. Circuses make no contributions to conservation. They serve no purpose other than "entertainment" if you dare to call watching abused and terrorized animals performing stupid and unnatural tricks "entertainment". Elephants, for example, are highly social, intelligent, and emotional animals and don't get dressed up and perform ridiculous tricks in the wild. They suffer from all sorts of psychological conditions including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and most likely not only suffer their own pains but those of others whose spirit and heart are also broken by the horrific abuse to which they're interminably subjected.

Please support this bill by writing your representative today. It's simple to make a difference in the lives of these and other animals who are needlessly and unrelentingly abused. 

Marc Bekoff, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

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