Circus Cirque

circus cirque Quidam poster, from Cirque du Soleil siteWe went to see Cirque du Soleil at London’s John Labatt Centre recently. The show, Quidam, was fabulous. Also the first circus I’ve been to at the JLC with no protestors outside. When my husband said he’d bought tickets, I said “but they don’t have animals!”

Yes, I’ve been to other circuses at the JLC. Took the protestors’ pamphlets, walked on into the show and enjoyed it. I listened to the ring master talk about the protestors and about how the circus looks after their animals.

Googling circus and anti-circus sites didn’t help clarify my thoughts on animal acts. I hate the thought of any animal being mistreated in training or living conditions. I also love seeing the animals in circuses. I’ve hung out on as many circus back lots as I could before, during and after shows. Whether they were rehearsing, feeding or relaxing, I never saw anything between people and animals that looked bad.

All bad or all good?

horses, Kelly Miller CircusI’ve thought a lot about this – am I contravening my beliefs by attending every circus I can? I don’t know. If I knew that a particular circus, or trainer, was truly known to abuse their animals, then I would want to see them stopped. But are they all bad? I can’t just agree, yes they are, without knowing from independent sources. The anti-circus, animal rights people say all circuses are bad. Circuses say they treat their animals well and that they’re doing great things for animal protection. What do non-biased, non-involved sources say? Those are thin on the ground.

elephant pulling up tent peg, Kelly Miller CircusAnimal lovers are animal lovers, and animal abusers are animal abusers. Both will be found in any animal-related endeavour. So stop having performance and entertainment that involves animals, you say. Ok, what happens then to those animals?

The elephants, big cats and bears could go to a zoo. Oh that will be a nice life for them. Day in, day out in an enclosure, eating, standing, sleeping. Go back to “the wild.” Is that workable for domesticated creatures? And what wild? Poachers, loss of territory and human encroachment have decimated elephant and big cat populations. There ain’t no viable “wild” for them to return to, even if they could fend for themselves.

Circus Life

And the circus people – what would they do? There’s a vibrant culture in circus life that Kelly Miller Circus reptile display, elephant ridesshould be esteemed as a national treasure. These are multi-generational families of skilled artists whose talents should be lauded. Troupes like Cirque du Soleil are probably not the answer for them. I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that Cirque du Soleil has a different ethos, traveling manner, history and way of life than that of the long-standing circuses. Traditional circus people winter in Florida, not Las Vegas.

I remember 1999, the last visit of the Kelly Miller big top circus to St. Thomas. I had never seen a circus in an actual tent. They erected it on vacant land at Centre and Moore Streets. It was magical inside the tent and, outside, barkers called you to see the snakes and games of chance.Tent down, ready to fold, Kelly Miller Circus

This was the final performance at this stop, and we watched them pack up. The elephants pulled the tent down and the roustabouts folded it and packed it in the trucks. When animals and people were all loaded into their vehicles, the long caravan pulled out for the next town. All I wanted to do was follow them.

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4 thoughts on “Circus Cirque”

  1. From what I’ve learned from several sources about wild animals used in circuses, I would support a ban on the practice.

    “A Huge Window to Our Souls. Elephants show us the best and the worst of ourselves”

    Elephants in Canada blog,

    “About Performing Animals:

    Wild animals are still used in circuses and traveling shows across North America. Most are shunted from town to town with no opportunity to live according to their natural biology and behaviour. They endure severe confinement, deprivation, hardship and brutality.

    Many performing wild animals are also large, potentially dangerous and perform in front of audiences with few protective measures in place. They pose a risk to themselves, their handlers, audience members and bystanders.

    As a leader in the struggle to end the exploitation of wild animals in circuses and traveling shows, Zoocheck conducts its own investigative and research projects, prepares and distributes a broad array of campaigning materials, and provides technical, material and financial support to local campaigns across the country.”

    The following report provides an overview of the problems inherent in circuses, traveling shows and novelty acts using wild and/or exotic animals for public performance or display purposes.

    Former baby elephant trainer exposes cruelty before he dies,

    I don’t agree with PETA on many things. The treatment & training of wild animals for entertainment seems cruel no matter who is exposing it.

    Photos show trainers shocking baby elephant during training,

    “Circuses easily get away with routine abuse because no government agency monitors training sessions. Undercover video footage of animal training sessions has shown that elephants are beaten with bullhooks and shocked with electric prods, big cats are dragged by heavy chains around their necks and hit with sticks, bears are whacked and prodded with long poles, and chimpanzees are kicked and hit with riding crops. Carson & Barnes trainers have even been documented using blowtorches on elephants.”

    1. Hi, and thanks. You’ve got some links here I haven’t seen so I’ll check them out. I’ve looked at some PETA stuff but I just don’t trust them. But that’s not to say they might not be right on some things. Blowtorches!! I cannot imagine any good reason for using those with any living creature! The whole thing, for me I guess, is just what is *really* going on, and is there a reasonable way to regulate or otherwise ensure that animal abuse is not permissable or tolerated. When either side is “explaining” with vested interests, I just don’t believe them. And PETA and many SPCAs and other animal rights/welfare groups have just as big of vested interests as the circuses themselves do. I lived in Newfoundland for 20 years, while the furor over the white coat hunt was still going on, and seeing Greenpeace and other groups still harping (haha a pun) on the “baby” seal hunt just makes me furious. Thanks again for the links – they sound like hard ones to read (crops etc.) but necessary if one wants to learn.

    1. Hi Shelley, I’d like to hear about it. I read your Facebook posts and have wanted to know more. I’ll email you. Thanks for writing.

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