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OC HIGH: STUDENT NEWS AND VIEWS : The Cruel Hoax Under the Big Top

March 17, 1995|PAYAL KUMAR | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Payal Kumar is a senior at Canyon High School in Anaheim

Peaceful visionary Mohandas Gandhi said that the morality of a nation can be judged by the way it treats its animals.

I strongly believe this, and I believe that the United States tolerates a staggering list of animal abuses.

A perfect example is circuses.

The slaying last summer in Honolulu of Tyke, a disgruntled Asian elephant shot after killing its trainer and severely injuring another person, brought back into the public eye the issue of how circus animals are treated.

It was rumored that the elephant's eruption was expected by those who had worked with it, but this information went ignored. An autopsy found traces of alcohol and cocaine in the blood of Tyke's trainer, who had formerly been fired from a zoo for animal abuse. Many wonder why an animal capable of such harm was left in such hands.

It is likely that many brutal incidents have been unreported because they occurred out of the public eye. What does it say about our nation when such a blatant problem is left uncorrected?

While circuses are banned in countries such as Finland, England, Switzerland, Sweden and Denmark, the savage tradition continues in the United States.

To appear in circuses, animals must first be trained, because the demeaning tricks they perform are beyond their natural behavior. According to animal rights groups and circus handlers, training consists of food deprivation and physical punishment. Animals do not have the will to perform unnatural acts, such as balancing on one foot or jumping through flaming hoops, without the threat of punishment.

Circus elephants are forced to spend 95% of their lives on a short chain strapped to two or more feet. Elephants in captivity have an average life expectancy of 12.45 years. In the wild, their life expectancy exceeds 60 years. In circuses, elephants are forced to stand in one spot when traveling or at the circus site, their only exercise being performing. It is not uncommon for animals to have an inadequate water supply while traveling, and rarely is their diet varied.

Over the course of a year, circus animals often travel more than 12,000 miles in filthy, foul-smelling boxcars.

The U.S. Animal Welfare Act merely requires that the animals have enough room to stand up and turn around when confined, yet even these minimal regulations are not often enforced. According to PeTA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), an international animal-rights group, tigers live and are transported in 4-by-5-by-6-foot cages, giving them barely enough room to turn around. And often those cages go uncleaned for 14 hours or longer.

For animals, this means enduring hell while living a life in the circus.

We must eliminate the ignorant belief that circuses are filled with happy animals that willingly perform.

If our government is not willing to stop this barbaric torture, we teens, the future of America, must. We must not financially support the beating, deprivation, death and confinement of wild animals in order to mindlessly laugh over their clumsy, forced attempts at imitating humans.

Stop paying to see the product of torture.

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