The end of the circus doesn’t mean freedom for animals
The Ringling Bros. may have shut down, but the spectacle continues.
New Republic shared an article on the fate of eight tigers, six lions, and one leopard following the circus’ last show this past January. PETA and the Animal Legal Defence Fund have been fighting the show for years, promising to those who join in or donate that deflating the big top meant no more stadium lights, loud crowds, whips, or tricks for the endangered species that headlined the acts. But just like they were wrong for crowning their opposition as the motivation for closing, they’re wrong about the next steps for these animals. Rather than reparations, Feld Entertainment (Ringling’s parent company) filed an application with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), requesting a permit to export all 15 cats to a German circus.
Oh, the protestors of the circus don’t like that one bit. In fact, over 100,000 have come to bat for the doomed animals in an online forum, bringing a lot more attention to the eight endangered tigers than they are to the lions, leopard, or all the other castaways not exotic enough to get attention. Clinging to the Endangered Species Act or doing your best tiger-in-a-change impression at a rally is as a much a step in the wrong direction for animal activism as selling these animals to another circus is. In fact, the Endangered Species Act, in section 10(a), allows the import, export, and commercialization of endangered species as long as it’s for scientific purposes or to “enhance the propagation or survival of the affected species.” I’d consider it a crater sized loophole in the system, in which dollar signs help influence permitting, if I didn’t already find the regulation of animal use frivolous to begin with.
These same laws support the people who believe breeding and locking exotic animas in a zoo, and charging a handsome admission to all who come to see them, is helping to preserve lives otherwise in peril, or the only way to bring a worthwhile educational experience to people that without a circus experience would give no shits about tigers. It all comes down to the bottom line with animals, and how we can benefit from their use. But the zoo debate is still on the back burner. Maybe after a couple more decades on the circus bandwagon, we can move on to that.
Should we feel better knowing Ringling Bros. has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to conservationist projects? Even to tiger conservation efforts specifically, to the tune of $235,000. It’s the sort of logic bomb that makes cartoon robots blow up on television, arguing that they should be granted a pardon to do what they want to tigers because they donate money to help different tigers. It’s not unlike the non-vegans who flippantly give out Facebook likes but are in no way interested in making any real changes to end the exploitation they are currently participating in.
Look, even the elephants that were retired from Ringling Bros. didn’t get the happy ending that was promised to them. They’re being bred and kept for cancer research. Is that really so different than being bred and kept for trotting around a stadium? Many will argue yes, because the benefit to humans is “greater”. It all comes back to our subjective ideas of animal treatment, and accepting “better” treatment for them instead of demanding justice.
Repeat after me: Laws don’t work, single issue campaigns don’t work, and continuing down this cyclical road of painting and repainting our picket signs isn’t working. It’s not enough to oppose one form of treatment, one species, or one company capitalizing on the sale, study, or stardom of an animal. To truly help, we need to unequivocally promote veganism and a future where animals are never used, no matter the intended purpose or it’s given value, because it’s all unnecessary.
If you never want to see another tiger in a circus ring, you already understand veganism. Please consider the lives of all animals, and do the only reasonable thing to help them–go vegan.