|Warning from the big top|
For decades now, campaigners such as ADI (Animal Defenders International) and Peta (People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals) have been saying that circus animals are cruelly treated. And it's worked. Animals have been gradually squeezed out of the circus ring on both sides of the Atlantic by local legislation that prevented circuses operating in prime municipally owned venues and, increasingly, national bans, such as the one has has this month come into force in Scotland.
The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus, the self-proclaimed Greatest Show on Earth and arguably most iconic circus in the world, was forced to close after more than a century because of such legislation.
The evidence does not support these bans. In 2007, the UK government-commissioned Radford report found circuses were as capable of meeting their animals' needs as zoos or other captive environments. Since 2012, a licensing scheme has regulated the use of wild animals in circuses and has produced no evidence of mistreatment.
The government has announced, however, that when the licensing scheme expires it will not be extended, bringing in a ban by default.
Why are circus animals being banned if there's no evidence that they are intrinsically cruel?
At the time, I confess that I didn't fully connect the dots. Yes, I thought, anti-circus campaigners may well be anti-vivisectionists and vegetarians and so on... but I couldn't see that side of their agenda catching on with the wider public. It's one thing to support a campaign against perceived or alleged cruelty (whether proven or just suggested) another to turn your back on meat and pets.
In the last couple of years, however, the mass media push for veganism has been impossible to miss. You can't open a newspaper or magazine without reading about a new meat-free business or recipes for meat-free meals.
|Today the circus,|
The anti-circus campaigners, meanwhile, are revealing their wider hand. At the foot of a press release that came my way today, ADI outlined its mission:
Active worldwide to end the suffering of animals: animals in entertainment – film, television, advertising, circuses, and sport or leisure; animals used for food or fur; protection of wildlife and the environment; trade in animals; zoos, pets, entertainment, and laboratories.
Note the words "food" and "pets" - there for all to see.
It's very similar to Peta's slogan, as displayed on its website:
to eat, wear, experiment on, use for
The ADI press release was in support of a film called Anima, in which representatives from 12 religions talk about changing our attitudes to meat.
According to one of the participants, Rabbi Singer: “Our belief in Judaism is that God never actually meant us to eat animals,” explaining “In the Garden of Eden, God shows us the fruit of the trees, the grass in the fields, and says ‘You may have any of this to eat.’ But God never mentioned animals.”
ADI president Jan Creamer, meanwhile, has this to say: “Millions of people across the world draw their beliefs and perceptions about the other species who share our planet, from their faith. There has never been a more important time to challenge themisunderstandings which have, in the past, been used to justify exploitation of animals. As Dr Lo Sprague says in ANIMA, every religion has compassion as part of its mandate. It is time to mobilize that.”
The film appears to say nothing about circuses, but the fact it is being promoted by ADI proves what the circus industry has been telling us all along: that the massive fundraising campaigns built around 'circus cruelty' were never really about circus cruelty at all, just part of a wider agenda.
As the post-circus campaign for worldwide veganism unfolds around us, it's a shame the warnings from the big top mostly fell on deaf ears.