The lives of wild animals in traveling circuses may change forever. U.S. Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA 8th) joined TV host Bob Barker and CSI actor Jorja Fox on Wednesday to introduce the "Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act".
The legislation would end an undetermined period of time that these animals live in temporary traveling circus conditions and doesn't impact zoos, aquariums, rodeos or other static facilities with captive wildlife.
"Keeping elephants in chains, confining lions and tigers in small cages, forcing them to perform unnatural tricks for the sole purpose of human amusement is increasingly difficult to justify the more we learn about these intelligent, social creatures,” Moran said. "Based upon publicly available research, including video and photographic evidence, it is clear that traveling circuses cannot provide 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."
Barker is the former TV host of The Price Is Right.
“Americans are becoming increasingly aware that circus animals suffer from violent training techniques and severe confinement,” he said. “Big, wild animals should not be part of the traveling circus and simply put, animal acts in circuses are antiquated and belong in the past, in a time when humans were ignorant about the needs of the other species who share our planet.
There are about 16 major circuses in the U.S., many of which own hundreds of animals. In April, a protest was organized at George Mason University against the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. "Animals belong in their native habitats, not in the circus," said a blog organizing the protest. "Numerous circuses use animals such as elephants, tigers, horses, and zebras. These animals are caged, routinely beaten to incentivize their performance of tricks, and suffer both mentally and physically during their captivity in the circus. The only reason animals are used in circuses is for profit. Their captivity does not educate children about animals. Rather, it sends a message that animal abuse and captivity is acceptable."
According to a 2009 ADI report "Animals in Traveling Circuses - The Science of Suffering": "No one is saying ‘end circuses.’ Rather, let’s take animals out of circuses and let humans do the entertaining. This has economic benefits; ADI has found that as animal circuses close, the trend is that animal-free circuses replace them. The circus industry can still thrive and even increase overall attendance without the stigma of animal suffering."
Findings from Animal Defenders International:
- Horses and ponies spend up to 96 percent of their time tied with short ropes in stalls, or tethered to trailers.
- Time in the ring, allowing them to run, is limited.
- Tigers and lions spend between 75 and 99 percent of their time in severely cramped cages on the backs of trailers.
- Elephants spend 58 to 98 percent of their time chained by at least one leg, and generally both a front and hindleg. The circus norm is to chain elephants overnight, either in tents or trailers. Elephant enclosures with circuses are inadequate, and the regime of chaining, being prepared for the show, performing and giving rides means time in them is limited.
- Animals in circuses suffer poor animal welfare and long, arduous journeys. Extended periods being tied up, chained, or caged results in abnormal behaviors that indicate these animals are suffering as a result of the environmentally impoverished, inappropriate conditions in which they live.
Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey, issued this statement:
"Our repeated efforts to meet with Representative Moran were ignored, which is particularly unfortunate given that our corporate headquarters is located in his Congressional District. He preferred to serve entities that are not within his jurisdiction and even foreign to this country rather than listen to the people he was elected to represent in his own District." said Tom Albert, Vice President of Government Relations for Feld Entertainment, Ringling Bros. parent company. "Indeed, this bill will do nothing to improve the care of any animal and represents an attempt to outlaw protected artistic expression of a centuries-old art form. Our company lawfully operates and provides quality family entertainment throughout the United States. It is one of the few live shows left that a family can attend for the same price as the cost of the movies."