Coalition for Animals
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Somerville, NJ 08876

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Why Schools Should Not Take Children to Circuses

Remember going to the circus and seeing tigers jump through flaming hoops? How about elephants balancing on one foot?  Stop for a moment and consider what incites an animal to do something unnatural, even dangerous, such as jumping through flames? Animal trainers would like for the public to believe that animals are coaxed into such behaviors with the promise of rewards. The truth is that animals perform because they fear punishment.

No matter what the circus folks tell us, there is no way to persuade an elephant to "dance" or a tiger to leap through hoops without some threat of punishment or violence.  Big-cat trainers carry whips; elephant handlers use bull hooks - a sharp, hooked metal tool used to poke and jab sensitive spots. Primatologist Dr. Roger S. Fouts calls the circus tradition in training the "two-by-four technique".  In other words, the animal is beaten into submission. Dominance, subservience, and pain are integral parts of the training process.

The circus is no fun for animals and it is not proper "entertainment" for children. Our children are being desensitized; we are teaching our children that cruelty for the sake of entertainment is acceptable.

As we are striving for a more compassionate society, this cannot be the type of suffering and pain we want to inflict on any living being. It is our responsibility as adults, to teach respect and compassion to all Godís creatures.

Many children spend a large amount of their waking hours in school. In addition to academics, we want our children to learn responsibility and respect for everyone. What kind of a message is a school giving when they include going to the circus as a field trip?  Do we really want to teach our children that exploiting living beings is entertaining?

Circus animals may be fed regularly. They may even have a veterinarian to look after them.  But this doesnít make life easy for them. They are caged and shackled and forced to work when the boss says so. They never have even a taste of freedom, but go from cage to circus ring to cage.  They travel thousands of miles during the performing season, which means long hours in boxcars or tractor-trailers with no room to stretch, let alone run.

  Dick Gregory, a noted civil rights activist, stated it well, when he said, "When I look at animals held captive by circuses, I think of slavery.  Animals in circuses represent the domination and oppression we have fought against for so long. They wear the same chains and shackles."

  Animals and humans suffer and die alike.  Violence causes the same pain, the same spilling of blood, the same stench of death, the same arrogant, cruel and brutal taking of life. We need to find ways to curb violence on all levels.

  There are many wonderful circuses that do not have animals for example, the Cirque du Soleil, who performed at Liberty State Park last year.    

  "Anyone who has accustomed himself to regard the life of any living creature as worthless is in danger of arriving also at the idea of worthless human lives."  - Albert Schweitzer