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What do the Cleveland Clinic and Ringling Bros. have in common?

There I was, forced to make a right turn out of the Aveda Spa yesterday (coloring my gray roots, if you must know), which put me on the path to the railroad tracks. They warning lights were blinking and I heard the train a comin’, so I put my car in park and waited for its imminent arrival. Much to my dismay, I had to watch scores of Ringling Brothers and . . . whatever Circus cars go by, as the greatest scam on earth was leaving Palm Beach County, to parts unknown. As each car passed, I imagined the creatures inside and what they must feel like. I imagined being taken from my parents when I was very young, to be physically forced to do things unnatural to me, in an environment unnatural to me, for the entertainment of others. And then being transported, in a crate, around the country, for the rest of my life.

I wanted to hear how Ringling Bros. could ever justify their actions. Here’s a snippet:

How does Ringling Bros. transport its animals?

The animals at Ringling Bros. travel in custom-designed train cars and other vehicles that are well-ventilated and designed to meet the specific needs of each species.

• Most of the train cars are outfitted with misters or sprinklers for hot weather, heat for cold weather and plenty of clean water and floors that are built to provide cushion and comfort.

• Ringling Bros. animal transportation vehicles and procedures comply with federal law and regulations and are frequently inspected by federal, state, and local regulators.

• Also, independent studies funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture of Ringling Bros. tiger and elephant transport facilities found that they were appropriately insulated and ventilated and had no adverse effects.

Now, I’m not sure who thinks any of that sounds acceptable. And I wonder what kind of "adverse effects" the USDA was looking for. After spending all of 20 seconds researching the USDA reports, it turns out that:

Ringling Bros.’ USDA inspection reports are riddled with instances in which federal inspectors found that Ringling Bros. had failed to comply with minimum federal regulations, and the circus has been cited for causing animals unnecessary trauma, behavioral stress, physical harm, and discomfort, a failure to provide animals with veterinary care, a failure to provide animals exercise, a failure to provide sufficient space, as well as not keeping the proper veterinary records. (Click here for more facts and myths about Ringling Bros.)

The focus on the care, feeding, and transport of the "acts" is irrelevant to me, though. When each car passed, all I could think about was how fundamentally unjust it is to use animals for entertainment. Meat-eaters can attempt to make arguments (that, of course, are unsound) regarding the need for meat. I can eaven imagine an attempt at a rational argument for animal experimentation. That argument will always collapse when analyzed, but that doesn’t mean some people won’t try to persuade you.

But to use (and abuse and exploit) animals purely to put a smile on someone’s face? Not only is that unjust, but I find it quite creepy.

I used to wonder what kind of person smiles at animals in entertainment. But then I figured it out, and wish I hadn’t. What kind of person smiles? One who isn’t thinking. Just like I could eat a filet of greyhound as long as I didn’t think about what is was and where it came from. Circus-goers aren’t thinking about the bigger picture or the smaller picture (of individual animals). And when they see a bogus Ringling Bros. ad, they use it as justification of their actions. But their ads are like believing Mr. Perdue when he says he "loves" chickens. Sure. He loves to make money from torturing and slaughtering them.

What does this all have in common with the Cleveland Clinic’s latest debacle: the using and killing of a large dog during a sales demonstration? When I walked back into my house from the post-haircolor train incident, I changed the television station from soothing music (for the dogs and cat) to something else and saw part of a new (to me) commercial. The image on the TV was a large dog (I think it was a Great Dane). No person–just a dog. The voiceover was a woman talking about "finding the courage to face any kind of condition." As the viewer you think: ah, of course, whoever is funding this ad, they know of the healing power of animals. But then you find out what the ad is for, and the ultimate message is mixed, at best. The Cleveland Clinic. How’s that for an attempt at damage control?

For heaven’s sake, America: Do a little thinking. Do a little research. And never, ever take at face value anything someone says if they’re making any money from that message.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Anonymous #

    I guess you knew I would have something to say on this subject this and fur of course the 2 easiest things for people to avoid buying and doing and yet it still continues.

    Want to Help?

    Doing Circus protests does help to educate the public. Most of the time you will even get in the paper which of course reaches more people. I do protests at every single circus I can travel too. If you want to help and you don’t have enough people to do a protest what you can do that is also very effective is just put on Cruelty Is Not Entertainment information literature on the windshields of the cars at the circus. You can get them at:

    Several people see our pickets each year and after considering the reason for us being there they decide not to go into the show. One of my favorites memories was of little girl dressed in pink, who had to be all of eight, convinced her whole family including two younger brothers to forego the circus. Her mother also said that the girl wanted us to know that she was a vegetarian and had veggie dogs for supper. Her Dad said she was a future leader and is he ever right! Just one of those kids and their strength to go against the throng of followers who flood into an event like that makes it all worthwhile.

    One of my let favorite memories was a little girl looked at my graphic poster of what goes on behind the scenes in the circus and she began to cry she then said to her mother "Does she want to hurt the animals?". I felt really bad that she did not understand what was going on and her mother certainly was not going to set her straight that would ruin their one day out of the year to go to a circus that imprisons animals to torture, loneness, and despair for the rest of their lives oh I'm sorry till they retire and then they spend the rest of their lives in cages, on game reserve's to be hunted for sport such as tigers or are sold to labs for animal experimentation such as monkeys.

    I have hard time believing that adults don’t really get what is going on when they are at the circus because when the tigers and lions are having to perform the trainer/abuser does have a whip and does crack it often during the act. This must register to even the slowest adult there that the only reason they are doing those tricks is because they don’t want to be whipped.

    Laura Lee

    January 18, 2007

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