Lions, Tigers, and Bears…Oh Why?
Editorial by Victoria Dicks
December 20, 2016
Abusing and exploiting animals is nothing new to humanity; we eat them, wear them, test on them, hunt them, torture them. And why? For our own enjoyment, in other words–for no necessary or logical reason at all. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that circuses that include animals are just as cruel as any other industry that involves animals, but for those who may not know, let the enlightenment begin.
The life of a circus animal is no life at all. These animals are either captured from the wild and taken away from their families, or they are born into captivity. Rohan Gupta shared his views on the subject, “Taking [an animal] from their natural habitat and family and subjecting them to an environment they might not grow accustomed to is wrong.” They are beaten into submission with whips, bullhooks (a weapon that causes the animals to bleed from being stabbed), electrical prods, ropes and are deprived food and water until a trick is perfected. In attempt to avoid attacks from the animals, they are trained to fear their trainers. These tricks made to entertain the audience, are uncomfortable, confusing and dangerous for these creatures. Having an elephant stand on its head with all its body weight pushing down on them is unsafe and can cause permanent damage to the elephant over time, not to mention, it’s incredibly unnatural to them. It is comparable to humans walking on all fours for hours, except way more painful and physically damaging. Tigers are naturally afraid of fire, yet they are still forced to jump through hoops encompassed by blazing flames. If the animals fail to complete tricks, they are not fed and are often beaten behind the scenes.
Are people so bored with their lives that they have to entertain themselves at a circus even if it is at the animals expense? The only way to make tigers, elephants, lions, bears, and other animals perform these tricks, is to abuse them and beat them into submission. In some cases, chimpanzees have had their teeth knocked out by a hammer, bears have their paws burned to teach them to stand on their hind legs, bear cubs born into captivity are hung on chains that force them to stand on their hind legs for hours at a time and if they grow too tired, they ultimately hang themselves, while tigers often have their teeth and claws removed so they have no way to defend themselves.
A well known hollywood animal trainer, Michael Hackenberger who trained a circus tiger for the movie ‘Life of Pi’ once said,“I like hitting him in the face and the paws….when you hit him it’s like vise.” The way he whips the tiger in the video is the same kind of treatment the tiger gets fromt the circus trainers. Aside from the abuse, circus breeding is beyond messed up. As many people may know, the white tiger is a staple for a circus that contains animals. Did you know that the white tiger isn’t even natural? The white coat is a genetic effect and causes tigers to be cross eyed and become prone to many health problems. Since the white tigers are so hard to create, they will often force a brother and sister tiger to reproduce, and the more this is done, the worse the health effects and disabilities become.
Having brothers and sisters make babies is on my top ten most messed up things I’ve heard about how we treat animals. Come on people! All so you can see a tiger jump through a ring of fire? Where are the morals? Where is the common sense? Have humans lost their minds? If we are so smart and we are the so called “dominant species” then how are we so freaking stupid? The circus workers force elephants to breed at only 8 years of age, which is the equivalent to a 12-15 year old child giving birth. While the mother gives birth, 3 of her legs are tied down so that when the baby is finally out and the trainers take the baby away, the mother cannot fight back or follow them. Being tied down while giving birth is extremely stressful. Once the baby elephant is a few weeks old, the trainers will tie the elephant down and continuously beat them to break their spirit and develop a fear of humans. Think about it, a tiger is not going to do a trick that scares them just because they’re nice. They’re going to do a trick that they are afraid of because they know if they don’t, they’ll have to deal with something even more frightening; their trainer.
When the animals aren’t performing or being “trained” they are isolated and locked in tiny spaces with barely enough space to turn around. Big circus cats and bears have cages that are 5X10 feet at max! 11 months out of the year, circus animals travel long distances in these trailers and are forced to sit in their own waste for up to 100 hours straight. These boxcars do not have climate control, causing some animals to die when temperatures exceed 100 degrees! According to Paws, an organization that is dedicated to helping abused and neglected animals, these animals spend up to 96% of their lives locked up. The elephant’s chains give them only 5 feet in length to walk, while in the wild they would walk approximately 75 miles a day. Lack of exercise and standing on hard surfaces often cause arthritis and foot infections that can end up killing the animal. Foot infections are the leading cause of death for elephants in captivity.
These conditions are not only physically detrimental, but they affect their mental and emotional health as well.These naturally social animals develop extreme depression, anxiety and stress related illnesses when they are unable to behave as they would in the wild. A very common mental illness is called ‘Zoochosis’. Zoochosis behavior can be shown through rocking back and forth, not eating, pacing, incessant grooming, vomiting, even self-mutilation, or suicide– let that sink in. Animals committing suicide? That sounds like such a foreign idea but it is happening as we speak. These behaviors are never seen in the wild. Animals are not meant to be used for entertainment. These animals exist for their own purposes and their own reasons.
These animals aren’t the only one who have to deal with the aftermath of years of abuse and neglect. Elephants in captivity commonly carry Tuberculosis which can be transmitted to humans. Children at the circus are at higher risk of getting the disease especially because children come in contact with the elephants to take pictures. Although, spreading diseases isn’t the only worry. In case you weren’t aware, lions, tigers, bears and elephants are wild animals. Meaning their behavior is completely unpredictable and can hurt or even kill humans. Since the 1990’s, circus animals have been responsible for 100 plus injuries and deaths. Losing a human life, even an animal abuser, is always a tragedy. However, can you blame the elephant? Either kidnapped from their family or bred in captivity, they have been beaten from day 1, whipped continuously, forced to do confusing tricks, and become sick because of their unsanitary and inhumane conditions. They suffer constant anxiety and depression to the point of suicide. Can people really blame the animals for finally fighting back? They are wild animals and when they react just as a wild beast should to abuse, we kill them for acting wild. Here’s a novel idea:
Let’s stop using animals for our entertainment and then we wont have sad abused animals preforming and no trainers or audience members have to die.
Isaac Bashevis Singer, a nobel prize winner, actor and writer offered his wisdom, “In relation to animals, all people are Nazis; for the animals it is an eternal Treblinka.” Consumers have the power to stop this abuse. Don’t go to circuses that use animals as entertainment. Animals are not ours. Its 2016. Is society done with abusing the world’s most beautiful creatures yet? Let us be on the right side of history.