Circus entertainers have been performing to audiences around the world for many centuries. The origins can be traced back as early as Ancient Rome! They were used to showcase horses and stage chariot races or gladiator battles. We’ve all seen that gruesome scene from Gladiator where Russell Crowe spars with a group of tigers as well as an undefeated gladiator (and somehow doesn’t die?!). Nothing is an issue for Russell.
When we think of modern day circuses, vibrant colors, goofy clowns, graceful acrobats and exotic animals all come to mind. Circus animal abuse is not always the first thing we consider. Some may believe animal abuse is a thing of the past, but the sad fact is, it remains an ugly reality in many circus acts today. Iran is the latest to put a stop to animal cruelty by banning wildlife in circus performances across the country.
What’s really goes on at the circus?
A dark underworld lies behind the painted smiles and clever tricks of the circus. Exotic animals such as lions, tigers, elephants and chimpanzees are often an integral part of the performance. You may look back and think the circus animals you’ve seen performing looked happy and well looked after. The shocking truth is that they are trained to give this impression and are viciously punished if they fail to act as commanded. Abuse can be administered in many ways including whips, muzzles, restrictive collars, partial starvation and prolonged dehydration. Physical effects are anything from bruising to broken bones. Psychological effects involve depression, anxiety, stress and extreme frustration due to isolation. They can be temporary or long-term.
Circuses may be one of the biggest culprits of animal abuse, but it does not stop there. Cruelty to animals is widespread. That elephant ride through an tropical forest in Thailand you’ve been dreaming of – there’s a high chance the elephants are mistreated. Wild elephants do not naturally allow humans to ride on their backs, so trainers must torture them when they are young to ‘break their spirit’. This is the same for many circus animals. They are routinely abused so they remain submissive and do not exhibit any ‘dangerous’ natural behaviors. All for a bit of human amusement.
How did Iran ban circus animal acts?
Iran has had an increasingly progressive stance on circus animal cruelty over the past few years. In 2014, Iran’s Animal Rights Watch launched the ‘No to Circus’ campaign, supported by ADI. Within 4 months the movement was a huge success and had attracted a lot of attention to the cause! 21 states imposed a ban and 13 circuses ended their use of animal acts.
Chahar Mahal and Bakhtian was among the first of Iran’s provinces to impose a ban. The state’s Director of Environment stated “using wild animals in circus is clearly an act of animal abuse and we strongly condemn such wrong, cruel acts.” In the two years since, all 31 states of Iran have followed suit. Even after this immense success, the campaign is still going strong, doing all it can to make sure that necessary by-laws are written and everything is approved by the Iranian Parliament. Its concerns over animal welfare does not stop here! The Animal Rights Watch is now working to end domestic animal acts.
Here’s even more good news! Iran’s heroic actions are being mirrored all of the world. Circus animal abuse is on a steady decline and several countries have imposed bans, or at least implemented strict regulations. Austria, Croatia, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Singapore are among those who have completely banned it, and Belgium, Bulgaria and The Netherlands have banned most wild animal acts in circuses.
Surprisingly, the US is yet to address the issue as well as it should, as many circus’ treatment of animals is not in-keeping with The Animal Welfare Act (1966) and it is very poorly monitored. Read this article for more information.
What can we learn from Iran? What can YOU do to help?
The main message to take away from Iran’s action against animal cruelty is that there is an urgent need to take a united stance against it. All 31 states of Iran came together to banish the abuse of animals in circuses and it was a powerful, courageous and inspiring step forward. The rest of the world needs to take note! Animal acts may be deeply entrenched in the world of circus, but real change will happen if we are willing to take proactive steps. Guys, let’s make this a world that respects and is kind to our animal friends! Here’s what you can do to make this a reality:
- Educate. Read up as much as you can about what happens at animal circuses. Go a step further and research other cases of animal cruelty such as Elephant riding and Tiger Temples.
- Petition. Get in touch with your local government and convince them to impose a ban on circus animal acts in your area
- Boycott. As long as people attend these performances, it will continue. Simply not buying a ticket is an effective way to show that there is no place for animal abuse in the entertainment industry.
- Spread the word. Tell others about what you have learned and encourage them to either petition with you, or do their bit by boycotting circus animal acts.
Image Source: tiempo.com and SIPSE.com
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