This week Rep Jim Moran took yet another awesome stand for animals by reintroducing the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act (H.R. 4525), which would would end the use of wild and exotic animals in traveling circuses over concerns about their welfare and the safety risks they pose to us.
According to Animal Defenders International (ADI), which is supporting the bill, there are an estimated 300 wild and exotic animals in U.S. circuses today. For them, life is restricted to confinement in unnatural barren enclosures and long journeys in between being used as performers for our entertainment.
Research, undercover investigations and news reports have exposed not only the problems inherent with keeping animals this way, but also the heartbreaking and violent abuses they’re exposed to behind the scenes that range from having food withheld to being beaten in training and blatantly mistreated.
“From video and photographic evidence, it’s clear that traveling circuses aren’t providing the proper living conditions for exotic animals. This legislation is intended to target the most egregious situations involving exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses,” said Moran in a statement. “The mounting evidence of inhumane treatment and the growing public concern for these animals demands that we reconsider what are appropriate living conditions for these intelligent, social creatures.”
While wild animals have been used in circuses for decades, we know so much more about what they need to be physically and psychologically healthy and the evidence shows that traveling circuses can never meet these needs, even with the best of intentions.
The continued use of these animals also poses a serious risk to the public. According to the Animal Welfare Institute, there have been over 30 serious incidents since 2000 that include the deaths of both animals and trainers and injuries to audience members.
While a number of cities and states have taken action and passed ordinances prohibiting wild animals and cruel training tools, supporters argue the issue needs to be addressed on a federal level because the mobile nature of circuses makes it difficult for law enforcement and inspectors to follow up on incidents and violations of the Animal Wefare Act, of which there have been many.
As can be expected, industry reps are already coming out in opposition. Stephen Payne, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Feld Entertainment Inc., told U.S. News & World Report that “it doesn’t make sense, it’s completely unfounded, it’s unnecessary, it will cost jobs and, as well, it might even harm our efforts to conserve an endangered species.”
Despite claims to the contrary, circuses aren’t contributing to the protection of imperiled species. They’re merely sending the message that it’s perfectly acceptable to take these animals and force them into submission for our profit and amusement. For us, there shouldn’t be anything entertaining about watching some of the earth’s most amazing species being reduced to ridiculous caricatures of their actual selves as they’re forced to perform humiliating and uncomfortable tricks.
Knowing better should mean doing better and in many places it already has. It’s time for the U.S. to join the dozens of other countries that have passed laws banning wild and exotic animals in circuses, which will soon be joined by others that are working on similar legislation, including the UK.
Please sign and share the petition asking the House Committee on Agriculture and your representative to take a stand for animal welfare and public safety by supporting this critical piece of legislation that will end the use of wild and exotic animals in traveling circuses.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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