Allegations of animal abuse hurled at circuses are hardly new. Circuses train animals to create any number of wondrous stunts, and animal rights activists do all they can to make sure the creatures are treated in as humane a way as possible.
This week, a new cruelty allegations hit Ringling Bros., but not by any animal rights proponents. Film and TV producer Gavin Polone’s excoriation of circuses in general, and Ringling Bros. in particular, made its way into the pages of The Hollywood Reporter.
Polone compared the circus’ treatment of its animals to an “old-fashioned racist minstrel show.”
He quotes Nicole Paquette, the vice president of wildlife protection at The Humane Society of the United States, who said, “Trainers typically use excessive and abusive training methods to make animals perform physically difficult and confusing tricks. Training tools include bull hooks, whips, sticks and electric prods.”
What is more disheartening to me is the likelihood that people I would consider friends, or with whom I may have worked — people who would say they are against the mistreatment of animals — ignored what they knew about the circus and bought tickets for Ringling Bros.’ Legends, directly helping to perpetuate that institution of torture.
Ringling Bros. responded via The Hollywood Reporter with a guest column of its own by spokesman Stephen Payne. He said Polone took quotes out of context to attack Ringling Bros., and that the show’s animals receive better care than he does.
Statements that we train by abuse is just rhetoric. Our people don’t spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week with animals they don’t like. Some of these people have worked with animals for multiple generations. For them it’s not a job. It’s a calling.
They will tell you the elephants come first, their families come second, and they come a distant third.