Founder/ Executive Director Melya Kaplan wrote this in honor of Ringling Brothers' closure.
Not long ago, people used to pay to watch the mentally ill in asylums. It was considered entertainment.
We consider the fact that this kind of “entertainment” no longer exists today to be proof that humans are evolving. This is the value of compassion.
There will come a day, not far off, when we will look back at how we used animals for entertainment, in zoos and circuses, with the same disbelief and horror as we now regard watching people in asylums.
We will see it as a dark period in our history. And we will celebrate the fact that it no longer exists as proof that our species is evolving. That is the value of compassion.
Species evolve based on adaptation: mutating to survive. And we do the same! That is the value of compassion.
CIRCUSES: THE WRONG MESSAGE FROM ANY PERSPECTIVE
Animal based circuses have been in existence for as long as any of us can remember. As children we watched the animals do tricks. It has always been considered entertainment for children.
But what are we really teaching?
That animals who live in the wild and who we would normally never come into contact with, can be confined and used for our entertainment. Because we CAN.
It was never questioned how it was possible to get wild animals to perform these tricks. It was taken for granted that they just do.
I remember when I was 6 and I saw a lion in a cage with a lion tamer who had a whip. He was cracking it over the lion’s head. I so clearly remember my confusion: if the lion wanted to perform, why was the whip necessary? Why did the lion have to be “tamed”? Wasn’t he okay as he was? Why did he have to do tricks?
As a child, I wanted to be a ballerina. Most of my friends did not. I loved performing. They did not. But they were still my friends. I remember looking into the lion’s eyes. He was angry. Was this just a game for the audience to see the drama between the lion and the tamer?
Then I saw it: the whip cracked and in FEAR the magnificent lion retreated. I started to cry. I screamed out, “Don’t hit him!” I knew what it was like to be hit by someone bigger and stronger than you. Everyone in the audience stopped and stared at me. I was quickly whisked away and severely reprimanded for ruining everyone’s fun by making a scene. I didn’t care. I knew what I saw.
Animal based circuses teach children that it’s okay to terrorize, and that it can be entertaining to control and force others to do what WE want them to do. It teaches children not to consider how others feel, but to only focus on how others can serve them. It teaches children a complete lack of respect for our environment and for the other beings with whom we share the planet. It teaches children that the goal is power and control over others, not compassion.
Animal based circuses teach children all of the “values” that we as a society deem unacceptable. All of the behaviors that when enacted on our own species, are considered immoral and often illegal.
As we look at our history as a species, the development of compassion has been the bench mark of our progress. We don’t steal people from countries like Africa and sell them anymore. We are horrified by our historical involvement in such atrocities.
If we are going to have an impact on the extreme amount of violence today, we need to start by teaching children that control over others, no matter who they are, is not entertainment.