We 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.
I’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.
Animal 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? Elephant and big cat populations have been decimated by poachers and by loss of territory and encroachment of human settlement. There ain’t no viable “wild” for them to return to, even if they could fend for themselves.
And the circus people – what would they do? There’s a vibrant culture in circus life that should 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. 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.