If we must have circuses, leave out the animals

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
October 18, 2017 - 6:53am Updated: October 18, 2017 - 4:52pm

KAMLOOPS — The circus is coming to town this week.

And, with it, the perennial issue of whether circuses are a good or a bad thing.

There’s a long record of accusations and legal challenges against circuses on the question of cruelty to animals, some undeniable and some unproven.

One can argue — as Mayor Ken Christian does — that the animals performing in the Garden Bros. Circus at the Sandman Centre are domestic and not exotic animals, which is true.

One can also argue that Garden Bros. Circus, in its various iterations, has been the subject of previous complaints and legal challenges in the past, both in Canada and the U.S., which it has.

When one thinks of circuses, elephants come to mind, and they’ve been the focus of much of the controversy.

But let’s assume the Kamloops version of the show — which is, as Garden Bros. calls it, a “dog and pony show” — is nothing to worry about.

Let’s talk instead about circuses in general. Let’s be clear, first of all, that circuses are legal in Kamloops under certain conditions. Then-mayor Terry Lake, to his credit, spearheaded a City bylaw nine years ago that bans the use of exotic animals like elephants and lions in circus performances within City boundaries.

But even sheep, pigs, camels and whatever spend much of their lives confined or travelling from place to place with circuses. They must be trained, often using harsh methods, to do acts that don’t come naturally.

A Pennsylvania state senator put it this way: “Elephants are not the only circus animals that are suffering. To maximize profit, traveling exhibitions use grueling itineraries that force all of their animals to endure cramped living quarters, limited social interaction, and perpetual stress.”

I’m with the senator from Pennsylvania. Whether it be circuses or rodeos, we’ve got to stop thinking of animals as commercial amusement, and respect them as sentient creatures who deserve our care.

Circuses don’t need animals, anyway — they’ve got clowns and acrobats and dare devils and trapeze artists. Leave the animals out of it.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.