In a few weeks Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus will come to town. In addition to the circus, Ringling will begin their stay by parading animals down Pennsylvania Avenue. As in years past, people will line the parade route and gawk at the wild animals. Is that entertainment? Should we feel good about watching wild animals perform asinine stunts, that are totally unlike everything a wild animal would do in the wild?
What is the difference between watching the circus and watching a professional ball game? For starters, players want to play. They've spent their entire lives preparing to play. They love it. They eat, breathe, and sleep baseball, basketball or football. And, they get paid good money, no GREAT money, to play ball. They are entertainers. What about other entertainers -- musical groups, singers or actors? They, too, work hard to do what they want to do. They choose to entertain us. And they, too, are paid handsomely for performing for our enjoyment.
What about the circus elephant? Have you ever seen an elephant in Africa choose the life a circus performer? Would a wild animal choose to spend most of its life in a box car, traveling from one location to another? And, not traveling in first class either. Circus elephants are chained and shackled. They are forced to stand in their own waste. Extremely social animals, circus elephants are kept isolated. They are poked, prodded and beaten with bull hooks (a rod with a hook at the end) that circus personnel call "guides". Would an elephant in the wild wear jewels or clothing? Would it stand on two legs?
People make choices. Circus animals do not. If people choose NOT to buy tickets, circus owners will not make money. And, if circus owners do not make money, they will not be able to maintain their circuses. Currently, circus owners make gobs of money because people choose to buy tickets to see wild animals do "tricks". Circus owners make the money. What do circus animals get out of the circus?