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Jesus is in one of the posters. Ringling is going to court this year for severe animal abuse. One ex-employee was a whistle blower. Another also left saying that the abuse was too upsetting every day. It's time that Ringling is put out of business once and for all.    Jan
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The Sadist Show on Earth?

Posted by Joel Schwartzberg April 14, 2008 1:12PM
Izod Center, April 12

Irate at Izod

My kids and I went to the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey circus on Saturday at the Izod Center. I can't remember the last time I'd been to the circus -- possibly never -- but we all have associations to the circus and know what to expect: clowns, animals, trapeze artists, overpriced souvenirs, and other shocks.

Just outside the entrance was something I didn't expect: a group of anti-circus protesters from the New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance, shouting gory details of animal mistreatment and holding signs. There were only a handful of them, corralled in a yellow iron-gated playpen, but their point was compelling, especially when I had to explain it to my five year-old daughter.

"Why are those people mad?" she asked.

"They're saying it's cruel to train animals to perform for humans."


"Well, sometimes the training involves..."

As I tried to find the right word, the image of Jack Bauer came to mind.

"Sometimes the training hurts."

This was enough information for all three of my kids to take a hard stance against the circus, but I said it was important to go at least once, to see what it's all about.

Uhhhh...I'll pass on that balloon, thanks.

Animal cruelty aside -- and audience cruelty considered -- "The Greatest Show on Earth" was, to these grown-up eyes, a bit underwhelming. The clowns were earnest and energetic, but nothing about them mitigated the "evil clown" imagery that takes frequent residence in our nightmares and phobias, so the resulting combined impression is that they're just...creepy.

When we stood for the National Anthem as a bedazzled lady held an American flag and rode past us atop an elephant, I knew we were in for something incredibly, and perhaps annoyingly, over-the-top. In fact, "Over the Top" was the theme of the show, in which a head clown steals the hat of the ringmaster and...oh, never mind.

There were some incredible, daring feats to be sure: seven Paraguayan motorcyclists criss-crossing each other at full speed inside a steel sphere, triple-somersaulting trapeze artists, Chinese acrobats, and powerful Russian gymnasts. But the comic segments were painfully slow and dumb, the songs were excruciatingly cheesy, and the gorgeous tigers and snow-white horses in particular seemed decidedly unhappy about being prodded with an electro-whip.

Looking resigned to their fate, majestic elephants traveled tail-to-trunk in a slow parade around the ring. Occasionally they sat back and raised their front legs like poodles, among other completely unnatural tricks. It's apparently open season for making elephants act completely out of character.

All of the animals were trained to act in direct opposition to their natural inclinations, probably to make them seem as lovable as their stuffed counterparts at the concession stand.

PETA's anti-circus site circuses.com puts it this way:

The fact is, animals do not naturally ride bicycles, stand on their heads, balance on balls, or jump through rings of fire. To force them to perform these confusing and physically uncomfortable tricks, trainers use whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bullhooks, and other painful tools of the trade.

As I waited on line to spend $10 on a box of popcorn and a bottle of water, I began to think the animals weren't the only ones being trained. The human audience was being guided, instructed, and occasionally duped as well. Complaining about the price of a Diet Coke would probably have gotten me zapped by a by-standing attendant.

Izod Center, April 12 Pachydermocracy?

On the way out of Izod, we saw the protesters arguing with police about their signs. Maybe they should have been a little more creative in their tactics.

"Everyone is WATCHING!" one protester yelled, but in fact, few were watching at all. We were busy herding our children into cars and following the exit ramps as directed.

"Everyone's got a complaint about something," I heard a man tell his wife dismissively.

But the protesters made an impact on me, enough to investigate further. Turns out the facts are pretty disturbing. A report by the the Animal Welfare Institute, the Fund for Animals, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals details not just abuse and mistreatment of circus animals, but also evidence that the USDA has looked the other way when it comes to circus animal mistreatment.

Ringling Bros. extols its own dedication to ethical animal handling in a document buried on their website, though it's weirdly short on details. Maybe because Ringling's history of past violations has a sizable lead in the details department.

The circus strongly encourages you to watch the animals during the show with your own eyes to understand if they're being mistreated. That's like watching a Michael Jackson video to determine if he'll be a good babysitter. Considering one of the Meadowland Sports Center's biggest sponsors, you'd think someone would be answering to a higher authority.

I'll probably steer myself and my family toward non-animal circuses in the future. All beasts deserve a free-to-roam home in their natural habitats, be it in a wildlife preserve, the jungle, or -- in the case of our cats -- the master bedroom.

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God's Creatures Ministry is committed to spreading God's compassion to all He has made based on The Scriptures. Although we are a Christian Ministry, we encourage all to have their own animal welfare committee in their community. We extend our resources to those who would like to learn more or begin their own God's Creatures Ministry as an extension of us. God created us to have a vegetarian diet and commissioned us to protect His animals. Instead, we have exploited them for our entertainment, fashion, appetite and useless, torturous research. These creatures have the right to live as they were created to live. Because we live IN this world, but are not OF this world, we strive to bring God's mercy and justice to all. We live in God's Kingdom now where Jesus, The Sacrificial Lamb, The Prince of Peace, The Lion of Judah reigns. We look forward to that day when all of creation will be 'set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God' (Romans 8:21) where a little child will lead and guide God's creatures (see Isaiah 11:5-9).

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