Entertainment or Cruelty?
Imagine being taken from your home and put in a secluded, open-windowed room and forced to learn tricks or pose for photographs for a foreign species for their entertainment. No human would enjoy this so why do none think or care about how animals feel about this happening to them? Maybe it has to do with humans’ instinct of thinking our species is superior to all existing species. For hundreds of years earth’s natural animals have been captured and controlled for human entertainment in events such as circuses and zoos. These places make seeing these animals easier because these businesses are rather cheap and local, opposed to the price of a few plane tickets to see them in their natural habitats. Humans’ selfish needs such as these tend to take over and block out the signs that these needs are resulting in the abuse and downfall of a whole other species.
The use of circuses for entertainment has been a tradition since 1782 when cavalry officer, Philip Astley, created the first circus in England, at the time the only trick animals being horses. As the nineteenth century hit, America had caught up to England and made its’ very own travelling circus, using Asian Elephants instead. Ever since these circuses have travelled all across the nations and people, especially americans, have fallen in love with these enormous performers. Little did they know that animals were not put on this earth to be apart man’s control or entertainment. Shaunacy Ferro states in his article on mental_floss that in 1916, an elephant named Mary killed one of her handlers, and the town of Kingston, Tennessee charged her with first-degree murder and hanged her. This sounds ridiculous right, but this is a fact that was a result from lack of human knowledge of elephants’ natural behavior. Since the first opening show hundreds of handlers and attenders have been killed by show elephants, but yet no one sees this as a warning. According to PETA in the most common circus company known as Ringling these are just some of the ways their treatment is torturous: elephants are forced to stand for hundreds of hours in small boxcars, when not performing they are confined by chains, when misbehaving they are beaten, and training is unmonitored so bullhooks, ropes and electric pods are used. This behavior is not hidden either because wounds are clearly visible but usually covered up with a product called “Wonder Dust” and Ringling has been know to have paid $270,700 for violation the Animal Welfare Act. Animal rights activists are seen protesting very noticeably at every Ringling event as well. The activists had finally gotten through to The Ringling Bros. company because on May 1st, 2016 the circus had their last elephant act and the elephants were soon let free to a 200 acre facility in Florida; sadly the activists did not get gain enough justice for the other animals, varying from tigers to camels, to be set free as well.
Unlike circuses’ limited animal list, zoos thrive to get as many wildlife animals as possible to put in captivity for the public eye. Zoos may not train these animals to do ridiculous stunts but that does not mean the animals of these environments should be ignored. The main purpose of zoos is said to teach people about wildlife and show them their personalities, when in reality both of these things rarely happen. Personally when I visited the Knoxville Zoo in Tennessee, do not get me wrong I am guilty of enjoying seeing these animals myself, but most of bigger African animals such as the lions, zebras, and rhinos looked miserable. Their enclosures did not look anything like their origins, and I did not learn much of anything from my experience. The only interactive thing for both the people and the animals was the giraffe feeding and the camel riding, which probably was not much fun for the camel. As if a zoos’ non existing point of creation is not already a turn off, the animal abuse in these enclosures is not known to be physical, but you would have to be blind to not see the mental abuse on these animals. Their environments are a huge red flag because of the lack of their natural climate in which they are used to and limited space. The natural behavior of animals such as elephants, lions, tigers, and bears is to run and walk miles a day which they cannot do in their limited enclosure space. PETA states that many animals in zoos actually develop a real condition called zoochosis in which animals act strangely and even act against themselves out of boredom and frustration from lack of natural instinct. The most commonly seen symptom of zoochosis is the pacing of big cats. Many zoos also claim their reasoning for having excessive animals is that they’re saving endangered animals by keeping them in captivity and breeding them, but in reality most animals seen in zoos are not endangered and the ones that are endangered and are breeded are not released into the wild anyways. The animals are to be put to death if a natural disaster such as a hurricane or tornado were to strike because of their enclosed and locked enclosures, that is if boredom and mental illness does not kill them first.
Both of these businesses would not thrive if it was not for human fascination and need for entertainment. But circuses can still thrive without animal acts and zoos are definitely not needed because humans can easily see these beautiful creatures in their natural habitats peacefully. Even though we all love seeing these beautiful creatures in which we share the earth with, we do not need to control them and rid them of their needs to do so. Neither species strived for control when first put on Earth together, so control and superiority between species now is not needed because one day one species might “bite back”.