Thursday, May 30, 2013

Out From Under the Big Top

Trey Smith

One of my favorite memories of childhood is going to one or more circuses per year. Though the crowds of people made me more than a little bit nervous, I loved the clowns and the animal acts. Since I grew up in a somewhat large metropolitan city -- Kansas City, Missouri -- the circuses that came to town were the big outfits with the three rings: Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus and the Shriners Circus.

Next Monday a much smaller outfit -- one ring -- will be here in South Bend for two performances. Since I loved going to the circus as a child, it would be natural to think that I will go to the one here for no other reason than to bask in the nostalgia. But that won't be happening for two important reasons.

As many readers know by now, my social phobia has grown worse as I've aged. Just the idea of sitting under a packed Big Top is enough to make me queasy. So, the anticipated local crowds are enough to keep me away.

That is not the ONLY reason I will not attend. The more important reason is that I now am an opponent of circuses that feature "wild" animals. To me, no matter how humanely personnel try to treat their animals, it isn't humane enough!

As a child, I didn't take the time to consider the circus atmosphere from an animal's point of view. I simply went to the circus and was entertained. By the middle of my teen years, I realized that my entertainment wasn't worth removing animals from their habitats and social relationships. While I might marvel at an elephant balancing on a ball or a tiger jumping through a ring of fire, these were not the natural actions of these creatures. Circuses force these poor animals to go against their internal natures to become novelties for humans to ooh and aah at.

And so, the circus will come to town and I will stay far away from it. I don't wish to play ANY role in the exploitation of these animals.

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