Everyone loves the circus, right ? Not any more. Since the late 1990s protests against circuses and their use of wild animals for entertainment have gained momentum. Protesters talk about actual physical abuse of the animals and also protest the very concept of restraining and training wild animals for the sole purpose of entertaining us. Performing animals should have long since gone the way of the circus freak show! The animal most focused upon are the Asian elephants, the symbol of the cirucus.
Every fall the Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey Circus comes to Bridgeport at the Arena at Harbor Yard. The CT Post, Bridgeport’s hometown newspaper, came out with an editorial against the circus. And every year protesters will be at the Arena. Details are published here every October.
If you were to strike your dog with a bullhook, or keep it chained by a front and back leg, you would be charged with animal abuse. Elephants in traveling shows endure lives of intense confinement, regular beatings with bullhooks, and the inability to satisfy physical and social needs.
Elephants are made to balance their weight on a tiny stool or two feet. Elephant hooks are used to control the animal by pulling behind the sensitive ear, pulling a leg forward or jabbing it under the tongue. Elephants are chained to the ground for up to 23 hours per day. Elephants which love wallowing in the mud and submerging in water are forced to stand in their own excrement in the circus, never able to enjoy these activities again.
Bridgeport Circus History
The circus has been a part of Bridgeport since P.T. Barnum first brought it to town in the 1880s. He is, of course, the “Barnum” part of of the modern Ringling Bros. Barnum & BaileyCircus.
Although a few elephants had been brought to America in the early 1880s, P.T. Barnum brought the famous Jumbo here in 1882, and Baby Bridgeport was born here that year and can still be seen stuffed and mounted on display in Bridgeport’s Barnum Museum. Barnum even had an elephant plow the field of his home in Bridgeport as a publicity stunt.
The winter headquarters for the Barnum Circus was built in Bridgeport in the 1800’s near Wordin Avenue in the west end’s Went Field. Horses, tigers, and other domestic and exotic animals were housed there in large stables. Elephants were trained there as well. Performers and trainers resided in surrounding homes. Although there was a large fire there in1895, the Bridgeport site remained in use until 1927.
Ringling Bros.Barnum & Bailey Circus, as well as other circuses worldwide, have been the focus of animal abuse allegations. According to many animal rights groups and eye-witness accounts, photos and shocking videos, circus elephants are beaten, hit, poked, prodded, and jabbed with sharp hooks, sometimes until bloody. Ringling breaks the spirit of elephants when they’re vulnerable babies. Heartbreaking photos reveal how Ringling Bros. circus trainers force baby elephants to learn tricks, and it’s not through a reward system, as claimed.Circus elephants are chained in train cars, perform unnatural and harmful acts in the ring, stand on the concrete floors of arena basements and are helpless to the violence of circus workers wielding sharp metal bull hooks. Ringling elephants are abused for our entertainment.
Elephants do not voluntarily stand on their heads, balance on balls, or sit on each other. They don’t perform these and other difficult tricks because they want to. They perform them because they’re afraid of what will happen if they don’t. There is no such thing as positive reinforcement only punishment and deprivation. To force them to perform these meaningless tricks, trainers use whips, electric prods, bullhooks, and other painful tools of the trade.
The knowledge we possess today about elephants, their development and their social lives is more advanced than it was a century ago. And everything we know says that chaining these animals and forcing them to perform for our amusement is inhumane and cruel. For more details on elephant abuse in circuses go to these informative web sites:
Cicrus protests have grown larger and more sophisticated in recent years. Local animal rights groups as well as national leaders like Friends of Animals and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) lead protests at most circus venues. They are filing important local and national lawsuits against the circuses and its practices.
Leading animal rights organizations have recently come out with under cover survailence videos displaying incontrovertible evidence on how elephants are broken and trained. The circus doesn’t deny the photographic evidence is authentic. They defend pictures of baby elephants with ropes around their limbs, prodded with sharp hooks and wrestled into unnatural positions as all part of the training process.
Humane activists around the globe are shifting in their opinions on the use of animals as entertainment, not only elephants and tigers in circuses, but whales and dolphins in water shows. Much of this is due to our increasing knowledge of animal behavior and changing standards when it comes to confining animals.
A bill considered by the CT General Assembly last year would have prohibited the use and possession of a weapon commonly used by the Ringling Circus known as a “bullhook”, a rod with a sharp hook on the end used to jab, strike, and poke elephants in sensitive areas, as well as other weapons such as electric shocks. The bill also would have prohibited the prolonged chaining of elephants. Bridgeport’s own Rep. Auden Grogins supported the bill.
Circus protests have a history in Bridgeport too. In 2006 Circus protesters arrested outside the Arena at Harbor Yard after trying to get past police-placed barriers blocking the entrance. They were charged with criminal trespass, breach of the peace, interfering with police and inciting to riot, but a federal judge ruled city police had to allow them closer to the Arena. And circus protesters have been protesing there every since.
National measures to prohibit or limit the use of animals in circuses have also been adopted in Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Hungary, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden, Singapore, Bolivia, Costa Rica, India and Israel. Similar laws are being discussed in Brazil, Chile, Peru and Greece. More than a dozen municipalities in the United States, 200 in the UK and 26 municipalities in Canada have banned circuses containing wild animals. Isn’t it time for Bridgeport and Connecticut to wise up?
The Bronx Zoo, the only zoo left in NYC that keeps elephants, plans to shut down its elephant exhibit after the death of one or two of its three remaining elephants. Many zoo facilities nationwide have either closed their elephant exhibits or decided to phase them out. The NYC Council tried to ban the display of wild animals for public entertainment last year but did not succeed. Also last year the Connecticut Legislature tried to outlaw the “hook” that is used by the circus to violently train its elephants but also did not succeed.
What You Can Do
There are two ways to end the use of animals in the circus. Either governments can ban it, or we can stop supporting it with our dollars. When the audience stops going to the circus, then they’ll change. Children do not need to learn about elephants at circuses. They can be taken for nature walks and appreciate the wildlife in their natural habitats. They can watch wonderful wildlife and nature documentaries and learn to appreciate and respect nature.
Isn’t it time for Bridgeport and Connecticut to ban animals in the circus? Contact your legislators and tell them. Boycott the circus and explain why to your children and friends. Educate yourself. See the list of web sites above.
Attend a circus protest rally in Connecticut. I will post here when one is scheduled. The abusive Cole Brothers Circus tours CT every summer and there are many protests. The Ringling Brothers Circus comes to Bridgeport every October with many protesters. Protests dates will be posted here and on my Natural Connecticut Facebook page.
Attend animal-free circuses with trapeze artists, jugglers, clowns, tightrope walkers, and acrobats, but let’s leave animals in peace. Cirque du Soleil, the New Pickle Family Circus, Cirque Éloize, and others are exciting and innovative circuses that dazzle audiences without animal acts. Click here for a list of animal-free circuses.
Elephants and other animals have no place in the circus. They have got to go. As Bridgeport’s part of circus history in America, let’s change the old-time slogan “Bridgeport – where the circus never left town.”
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