Animal Writes
3 June 2001 Issue
ARO's Answer to Circus Query

by [email protected] 

Q: Let me start by saying, I am NOT an opposer to groups such as yours. I am very sympathetic to the rights of animals; HOWEVER, I attended the Ringling Bros circus with my 2 yr old daughter this past weekend. When we came out, a CLOWN was handing out COLORING BOOKS to CHILDREN. Luckily, I looked at the book after I snatched it from my daughter. Appauled is not strong enough a word for what I saw. Like I said, I appreciate the opinions of those opposing the circus, etc. This coloring book,
geared towards children, was very graphic in showing the elephant being tortured.

Giving these books out to children is HIGHLY inappropriate. Perhaps these groups should rethink their strategies. You are talking about 2 & 3 yr old kids seeing these violent portrayals. That is ridiculous!

A: Dear _______,

The images in those coloring books pale in comparison to what REALLY goes on behind the scenes at the circus, and we believe in telling children the truth about animals for whom they have a natural affinity. Lying to them about "happy elephants" and other performing animals only perpetuates the
abuse by denying that it exists. Give them the real story and let them decide if they want to be part of the "cruelest show on earth."

As responsible parents, we have an obligation towards our children to teach them the truth. If we fail to do this, a responsible society is forced to take on this obligation. It is best done by a Mom or Dad though. It seems obvious that you have failed in this obligation because you say on the one hand that you are sympathetic towards the rights of animals yet on the other hand, buy tickets to an animal circus! Next, this coloring book is not very graphic at all. To the contrary, it is a very toned-down representation of the actual horrors that go on behind the closed doors at the Ringling training facilities (as testified to by employees of Ringling itself). We could not present a more non-graphic depiction of the abuse that these animals suffer at the hands of many of the trainers and handlers without portraying
an inaccurate representation of the cruelties. What are we supposed to put in this coloring book -- mountain streams and butterflies? Also, projecting one's own emotions or ignorant beliefs upon a child as you have done is unfair, at best, to the child. Furthermore, at these educational demonstrations, I have personally witnessed very young children who have watched the actual real graphic footage of the beatings, open wounds, and bodies of animals in Ringling and circuses like Ringling on our FaunaVision
kiosk without signs of trauma. Not only did these children watch with complete attention and curiosity, but the ones who were a bit older (5 or 6) often asked questions. All this, while their parents were with them. In some of these engagements, it was the child who stopped to see the footage and the parent then stopped and watched also, but in other engagements, it was the parent (with child in arms on occasion) who stopped and then approving of the truth, watched with their child (not projecting their own emotions or ignorant beliefs upon their child, but allowing the child to see what the child would have seen if Ringling didn't hide the ugliness from them). Ringling has specifically targeted our children with their lies -- why would you not find this shameful and dispiteous or despicable -- you didn't mention anything about this? Finally, if a child suddenly becomes saddened or upset after looking through the coloring book (which has never happened from my experience all these years), I must contend that a little shock or hurt is not always a bad thing. You can't own a child's mind and continually force a child to see a view that only you want to see. Preventing a more serious trauma to the child later on when they find out that their own parent has been lying to him/her or has been disingenuous with him/her by presenting a less serious trauma to them now, is called being a good parent. Here in the 21st century, we, as Moms and Dads of children growing up in this new era, have a further duty towards our children; that is to teach them that their entertainment should never come at the expense of violence and that this should never be tolerated and that compassion is the way to go.

I hope this helps you. The tendency is that, no matter how non-graphic the coloring book is (or whatever literature or message), as long as there is a message that the parent doesn't want to accept, the coloring book will become the thing that is 'bad' as opposed to the thing that is actually 'bad' -- in this case, the abuse of animals.

Go on to A Message From Robert Redford
Return to 3 June 2001 Issue
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