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Life's a circus as it is!

If there's a cause that really yanks my chain, pushes my buttons, rubs me the wrong way, and busts my chops, it's animal cruelty. If it served to curb an iota of such ignorance, (and if did not bother the animal), I would gladly chain myself to a circus elephant for a month.

How can we call ourselves civilised humans and at the same time mistreat animals?

How can we look around us, see the disasters the human race has caused this earth, and still believe that we're the superior species?

How can we call ourselves Christians and misinterpret the bible so catastrophically when it says ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth?'

Animal cruelty is disgusting and unacceptable in every form, but circuses are the most inexcusable of the lot because they have none of the usual (albeit ridiculous) excuses that other animal cruelties use in their defence. Circus animals are not used to nurture us or to keep us warm or healthy. Just like the nauseating fur industry, circuses mistreat animals purely for our capriciousness.

There is currently no restriction on which species can be held in circuses, and not much legal provision for their welfare either, so profit-motivated people, completely indifferent if not immune to the suffering of living creatures in their possession, keep wild majestic animals, like elephants, giraffes, hippos and tigers, in restrictive environments, forever negating them the right to ever roam free and live like God intended them to. They train them using punitive methods, and generally lead them to a slow miserable death....all because we can't find a good book or a good movie to keep us entertained for that evening.

Research carried out in 2006 in the UK revealed that:

  • Circuses with animals travelled an average of 1,864 miles during the circus season
  • The animals were transported an average of 103 miles between sites
  • They were loaded and unloaded an average of 52 times during this period and were sometimes given only two days to recover before being transported to the next site.
  • This means that the animals spend most of the year in temporary accommodation.

If you think this is not cruel, try living out of a suit case, in and out sub standard hotel rooms for more than a few weeks, then, and only then, get back to me!

Unfortunately the awful unnatural conditions in which these animals are being kept are not enough to get the spineless authorities to stop them because, I suppose, the circus pockets are deeper than the authorities' guts! So, animal lovers, or let's just say decent human beings, have been exposing the extreme cruelty that goes on during circus training with the hope that these disturbing images will get the authorities to do the right thing.

For those who are still unconvinced and have the heart to see animals suffer at the hand of their ‘loving' trainers, I have placed hidden-camera footage and videos here: http://www.alisonbezzina.com/circus-cruelty/

The most controversial figure of our times is Mary Chipperfield (Circus owner) and her revolting treatment of the chimpanzee 'Trudy'. Chipperfield, her husband Roger Cawley, and their elephant keeper Stephen Gills, were all found guilty of animal cruelty. Gills was jailed for four months because of his continuous attacks on the elephants with iron bars and pitchforks. Evidence showed that he sometimes he hit them as often as 30 times on the face whilst they were conveniently chained to the floor. Chipperfield was convicted of cruelty to an infant chimpanzee which she kicked and hit with a riding crop. Roger Cawley was convicted of cruelty to a sick elephant called Flora. Cawley claimed he was exercising her because she was sick, but he whipped her to make her go faster and faster.

The Cawleys were fined but not banned from keeping animals but what is more sickening about this story is the revelation of the level of brutality permitted in animal circuses - Mary Chipperfield was also charged with cruelty to a camel which she hit in the face with broom handles and reins, she also kicked it and also twisted its tail, but was not found guilty of cruelty to the camel because forcing a circus animal to perform tricks is legal!

If you think that these are just extreme cases used by animal defenders to sensationalise the issue, the tools used to train the animals reveal the truth behind the fairytale!! Whips are seen in the ring, and as if these are not bad enough, the use of screws hidden in the base of walking sticks, spikes concealed in tasselled sticks and hotshots or electric shock devices have also been documented.

Some ex animal trainers or keepers have also spoken out, to expose the cruel methods used to break and train circus animals. Pat Derby, who is now president of the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) used to be a movie animal trainer. During the animal cruelty trial against the Ringling brothers last February, she said "You cannot train an elephant without force or fear and have them perform consistently, all the time". She quit her job as an elephant trainer in 1982 because she could not bear the way elephants were mistreated during training sessions.

Some circuses still have the gall to call themselves educational. They canvas schools, and are allowed to promote their disgusting shenanigans with children. What could possibly be educational about reducing magnificent animals to performing silly tricks? What's so educational about proving that 'Man' is capable of this kind of dominance? Before taking your kids to watch an animal circus please read the book by George Lewis - 'Elephant Tramp'.

Circus owners and those who support them only understand one language - the currency language. So let's talk to them in a language they get: if God forbid, the circus makes it to Malta, I will be boycotting (for life) any product or brand that associates with it - whether in the form of sponsorship or retailing, whether it's snacks or drinks or sweets, that company will never get another cent from me. I know I'm not alone in this, so let's join forces and do it. Let's see which company affords to lose hundreds of clients in this economic climate!

Photo : Plaintiff in the Ringling Brothers trial - Tom Rider - displaying a bull hook during a 2006 legislative hearing. Credit: Nati Harnik / Associated Press.

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