by Hugh Chisholm, DVM
The circus is coming to town. Instead of getting excited about this, many of us who care about animals cringe. The thought of a bunch of tired, stressed animals performing silly tricks makes me sick to my stomach.
Circus promoters will tell you they love their animals. They swear they treat them well. I have witnessed otherwise. I saw an elephant trainer berating an elephant behind the Halifax Forum a few years ago. He scared her so much she urinated - a common stress response. I had another elephant trainer tell me he had no problem beating an elephant that misbehaved “much like you would beat a dog that misbehaved in your veterinary hospital”. I assured him I do not beat animals!
A tiger trainer once threatened to spray me with water because I was taking pictures of his tiger in its travel crate. This same tiger was gunned down by a SWAT team a few months later after it attacked and killed the trainer’s wife.
Children learn nothing good about animals and their role in nature from their exposure to the circus. They get to see them perform as live cartoon characters. The lesson is that humans can dominate and bully animals to perform just about anything for our enjoyment.
Consider attending Cirque du Soleil. They are a highly entertaining act with strictly human performers. They will be at the Metro Centre in July.