Once again, the Ringling Bros. circus has come lumbering to town.
Which means not just the self-appointed "greatest show on earth," with its death-defying feats and whatnot, but also its assorted animals and the controversies that surround their care and keeping.
If you choose to attend Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey presents Circus Xtreme, the latest show from the circus that promises to astonish and x-hilarate you with the un-xpected, x-pect to cross a picket line of passionate activists who are none too pleased about the treatment of the animals who'll be on parade for your amusement inside the Amway Center for the next four days. In what has become an annual event, the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) has vowed to set up camp just outside the arena with a spectacle of its own.
According to PETA’s website RinglingBeatsAnimals.com, elephants are chained inside filthy, poorly ventilated boxcars for an average of more than 26 straight hours – and often 60 to 70 hours at a time – when the circus travels. Reports from former Ringling employees claim the elephants are routinely and violently beaten with bullhooks, an elephant-training tool that resembles a fireplace poker. And Ringling has been cited multiple times since 2000 for serious violations of the Animal Welfare Act including improper handling of dangerous animals, failure to provide adequate veterinary care, endangering tigers that were nearly baked alive in a boxcar because of poor enclosure maintenance; and failure to test elephants for tuberculosis, as well as unsanitary feeding practices.
“The animals that travel with the circus are not performing out of any desire for the show, they have been taught the tricks they perform through violence and pain,” says local Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) spokesperson and protest organizer Bryan Wilson. “There are no natural behaviors that these animals are allowed to perform, they spend their entire lives living behind chain link fences, chained and/or caged.”