Circus protesters say they won’t give up

September 18, 2018

For centuries performers have passed their trade to generations of descendants. When jugglers, acrobats, lion tamers and ringmasters perform for the crowd, they aren’t just doing a job – they’re fulfilling a legacy. But for some Lake Havasu City residents, there are traditions that should be left in the past.

After almost three decades of performing in Havasu, the Jordan World Circus opened its gates to the Havasu public this week. The event was picketed by Havasu resident Carolyn Long and a following of fellow animal welfare advocates.

For a third year, animal rights advocates appeared at Havasu’s El Zaribah Shrine Circus to protest the abuse of exotic animals in the circus’s employ. While dozens appeared at previous protests, however, about 12 appeared to picket the event Monday evening.

“Most of these animals are endangered and threatened,” Long said. “Kids have to learn to respect these animals, or they’re not going to survive. Tonight there were only a dozen of us … maybe it’s apathy. But we are not going to give up.“

While protesters at the event were fewer than in 2017, there is a growing sentiment to address potential abuses of exotic animals in circuses. Republican Senate candidate Martha McSally was among 41 U.S. legislators to co-sponsor the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act, which would establish a prohibition on the use of exotic or wild animals in circuses.

In 2017, the City of Kingman issued a resolution “Condemning the Use of Wild and Exotic Animals in Traveling Shows and Circuses.”

According to Long, the abuse of circus animals is a longstanding tradition among circus organizations that needs to end, referencing internet videos detailing such abuse and dozens of federal citations against circus organizations in reference to the alleged use of torture in forcing animals to perform.

“When we allow our children to see tiger trainers cracking whips and kicking the tigers, and elephant trainers jabbing them with bullhooks to watch them perform unnatural tricks, what kind of message are we sending our children?” Long said.

Among the protestors at Monday’s event was Havasu resident Fred Stanley, who is himself a member of the El Zaribah Shriners.

“These guys are a positive organization,” Stanley said. “I’m not saying this kind of abuse happens here, but it happens, and someday it could happen here. I’ve been around my animals all my life, and if I saw cruelty to animals, I would say something. I think it would put people’s minds at ease to know this kind of thing is being policed.”

The Jordan World Circus does not provide or maintain its own animals, but contracts with other organizations who provide such animals to perform in circus events.

The Federal Animal Welfare Act of 1966 expressly forbids the use of physical abuse in training or handling animals; and the handling of those animals must not cause trauma, overheating, excessive cooling, behavioral stress or unnecessary physical discomfort.

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