"Brutality to an animal is cruelty to mankind". China bans all 300 animal circuses; zoos "stop abusing animals or be shut down"
"Brutality to an animal is cruelty to mankind - it is only the difference in the victim." ~ Alphonse de Lamartine
China announced a ban on animal circuses this week—all 300 state-owned ones of them. It's a huge step for animals, considering how they're treated at circuses—and in zoos—not only in China but around the world.
"In many circuses, wild and exotic animals are trained through the use of intimidation and physical abuse. Former circus employees have reported seeing animals beaten, whipped, poked with sharp objects and even burned to force them to learn their routines. Elephants who perform in circuses are often kept in chains for as long as 23 hours a day from the time they are babies." - DoSomething.org
Here's a glimpse at what some other countries' circuses and zoos look like—it's not pretty. Suppliers of animals for circuses are also notorious, sometimes because of secret dealings with zoos.
Tigers, for example, get burned jumping through flaming hoops—they naturally fear fire, and training animals to perform such foreign and often painful acts is not a smooth process, and often requires whips, tight collars, electric prods and other tools.
The Giza Zoo in Cairo was expelled from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums for reasons, Global Post explains, "including substandard results during an inspection and the inhumane killing of two gorillas thought to be infected with the Ebola virus."
More recently, "for a little illegal personal payment, zookeepers are letting zoo-goers play with any animal they want, including bears, lion cubs, elephants, tigers and seals."
An investigation at a major UK circus found "elephants chained for 11 hours a day, animals being put through their paces in the secretive training ring and an elephant repeatedly jabbed with a metal stick to make her perform."
Not long before, a zoo in southern England had been expelled from the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA) because of secret dealings with the Great British Circus, the only UK circus still using tigers in its shows.
An accredited zoo in Canada has also been reported "renting out elephants and other animals for circus shows. The training involved with teaching elephants circus style tricks is abusive and the traveling is hard on the animals."
Topping In Defense of Animals' 2010 list of the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants (for the fourth time), the San Antonio Zoo "crams two of the Earth’s largest land mammals into a space smaller than many backyards."
"Boo has been terrorizing Lucky, who has no escape route, leading a top elephant expert to warn of dire consequences," the list said. The "herd" of two was the zoo's solution to Lucky having lived essentially in solitary confinement.
Around the world, elephants are trained through the use of an ankus, which IDA USA explains:
...a wooden stick with a sharp, pointed hook at the end to discourage undesired behavior. An elephant handler will never be seen working with an elephant without an ankus in one hand or discreetly tucked under his arm. Although an elephant’s skin is thick, it is very sensitive—sensitive enough to feel a fly on her back. The ankus is embedded into elephants' most sensitive areas, such as around the feet, behind the ears, under the chin, inside the mouth, and other locations around the face. Sometimes it is used to smash them across the face.
Reports out of Peru have told of lions at circuses "being whipped, prodded, struck with weapons and even pulled by the tail, in order to force them to perform."
Other abuses include "a restrained woolly monkey screaming in terror when his handler forced the animal's head into his mouth," a trainer poorly treating a capuchin monkey and ocelot, and animals being forced to live in small, dirty, rusting, and barren cages—a far cry from animals' natural habitats.
Camels have had their noses twisted to get them to perform his act of bowing down.
At the Kiev Zoo, Global Post reports 51 animals died in 2008 and more recently had lost an elephant, a white camel and a bison.
Learn more about the ugly side of animal captivity with Ric and Lincoln O'Barry, stars of The Cove.
China is saying "lights out" for all animal shows at its 300 state-owned zoos, telling zoos that they can either stop abusing animals in this way or be shut down. The circus act ban—which China's Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development passed in September 2010, earning it PETA Asia's Advancement in Animal Welfare Award—officially goes into effect this week, and already two zoos have shut down their circuses. Some of the cruel stunts used in these shows featured lions standing on horses' backs, bears walking tightropes, monkeys fighting each other, and live animals being fed to predators.
Banning these cruel shows could lead to improved conditions for other zoo animals as well. Last year, an investigation by the State Forestry Administration (SFA) revealed "more than 50 zoos where animals were suffering severely because of abuse." The SFA also received a PETA Asia Advancement in Animal Welfare Award for its investigation and the ban that it imposed in July 2010 on cruel circus acts.
Chinese zoos had defended the circus acts, saying that they made the animals "stars." But we're pretty certain there's not an animal out there who would prefer being beaten and forced to perform stupid, dangerous tricks to relaxing and playing with his or her family.
PETA Asia has been sending undercover investigators to zoos across China since July 2010 in order to monitor the zoos' compliance with the new policies, and the group is reporting violations to authorities.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is known for its long history of abusing animals. In 1929, John Ringling ordered the execution of a majestic bull elephant named Black Diamond after the elephant killed a woman who had been in the crowd as he was paraded through a Texas city. Twenty men took aim and pumped some 170 bullets into Black Diamond's body, then chopped off his bullet-ridden head and mounted it for display in Houston, Texas. Ringling's cruel treatment of animals continues today.
Elephants in Ringling's possession are chained inside filthy, poorly ventilated boxcars for an average of more than 26 straight hours—and often 60 to 70 hours at a time—when the circus travels. Even former Ringling employees have reported that elephants are routinely abused and violently beaten with bullhooks (an elephant-training tool that resembles a fireplace poker), in order to force them to perform tricks. Read more about the Ringling whistleblower who told PETA about the shocking death of a lion and the abuse of elephants in Ringling's care.
Since 2000, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has cited Ringling numerous times for serious violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), such as the following:
* Improper handling of dangerous animals
* Failure to provide adequate veterinary care to animals, including an elephant with a large swelling on her leg, a camel with bloody wounds, and a camel injured on train tracks
* Causing trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm, and unnecessary discomfort to two elephants who sustained injuries when they ran amok during a performance
* Endangering tigers who were nearly baked alive in a boxcar because of poor maintenance of their enclosures
* Failure to test elephants for tuberculosis
* Unsanitary feeding practices
In fact, the USDA currently has open multiple investigations of potential violations of the AWA by Ringling.
At least 26 elephants, including four babies, have died since 1992, including an 8-month-old baby elephant named Riccardo who was destroyed after he fractured his hind legs when he fell from a circus pedestal. Elephants are not the only animals with Ringling to suffer tragic deaths. In 2004, a 2-year-old lion died of apparent heatstroke while the circus train crossed the Mojave Desert.
To learn more about Ringling's lengthy history of abusing animals and deceiving the public, read PETA's Ringling Bros. factsheet (PDF).
Photos courtesy of Thinkstock, Jupiterimages, shannonyeh.photography / CC by 2.0, and ringlingbeatsanimals.com
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