Monday, September 17, 2012

Ringling Brothers...and the elephants


When I was a kid, I vaguely remember going to the circus. In fact, I really don't remember it at all. What I DO remember, though, is riding the elephant. The elephant was amazing, majestic and beautiful.
I'm the second one back - I was 12 or 13 at the time, but look like an adult - especially compared to my tiny mom. That's my young friend Mele in front of me and my brother behind me. And my wee Mama at the back.

Ringling Brothers got a LOT of guff about their animal acts since then - and have had to seriously readjust what constitutes their show.

In fact, I didn't even know they still existed until my husband's work offered some deeply discounted tickets to the circus. And when Kiernen found out, he wanted to go. So, thinking that if they still exist they MUST have straightened up their act where animals are concerned, we went.

I honestly thought they'd have had to retool and be much more like Cirque de Soleil - because PETA don't play - they really take animal welfare seriously. And honestly, how fair is it to an animal meant to have miles of space to be traveling in a train several months a year?

It seems they've changed their animal acts a bit. The elephants were there - I guess it's the one last animal from their heyday they're holding on to. Because you know, they're the signature act. 

So they had camels, ponies, and miniature ponies here. And later dogs, all rescued from shelters. One of whom jumped at the trainer from behind and knocked her out of the ring - in his exuberance to get that snack!

I looked online for an unbiased website to let me know what Ringling Bros is doing these days regarding animal welfare. It seems they've put a fair chunk of money into creating a big cat rescue where the big cats go and retire. Same for the elephants. But while there were no big cats in the show, there were still the elephants. And honestly, that made me sad.

But they did have a wonderful aerial acrobat show. 

I didn't get the photo I meant to get with this one, because this act was really about the crazy amazing strength of this woman. She was contorting herself into all manner of amazing positions while balancing his MAN's weight on parts of her body like her stomach, her hip, her shoulders. She was crazy strong. And had amazing balance. My lack of photos as due to my sitting there with my eyeballs and mouth open wide, astonished. I LOVE stuff like this. Way to fully utilize what your body is capable of, amazing contortionist lady!

These guys were awesome - basketball on unicycles. They did some really crazy fun stuff. 

And well, you know...the elephants. Signature and all.  They were beautiful, majestic...and they looked really sad and tired. And reading online that elephants would only do something like stand on their heads with threat of pain and then watching them do just that...these animals aren't really meant for circuses and performing tricks. They're meant to be free and wild and ruling the savannah.

Ringling Brothers has come so far toward actually making themselves decent and kind in the animal department - why are they insisting on holding on to these elephants and making them do this stuff? Have they not seen Cirque du Soleil (clearly they have, half of their show was "borrowed" from its pages)? Come on, Ringling Brothers - you can do better. Let the elephants live in peace, on a wildlife preserve. Don't subject them to this humiliation and pain. They deserve to retire.

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