Performing Wild and Exotic Animals
As an animal protection organization, our main concern is the welfare of the animal performers in the circus. The use of wild animal acts in circuses is an abusive and often dangerous form of entertainment. The inhumane treatment of travelling performing wild animals is well known and extensively documented. In fact, virtually all major humane societies in North America, including the Edmonton Humane Society, condemn the use of wild animal acts in circuses and other performances. To make matters worse, the Tarzan Zerbini Circus (Royal Canadian Circus), often used by the Edmonton Al Shamal Shriners, has a long record of citations from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) for everything from failing to meet minimal federal standards of care for animals and failure to provide a veterinary care program, to causing serious injury to children.
Animals used for entertainment live a life of deprivation, misery and hardship. Their lives consist of constant confinement, year-round travel, harsh and often brutal training methods. All their natural instincts are denied. The resulting stress drives the animals mad, contributing to the death and injury of both people and the animals.
We believe "The Five Freedoms" are essential to the wellbeing of an animal.
be free from hunger, thirst and malnutrition
be free from discomfort, fear and distress
be free from pain, injury and disease
be able to express normal behaviours
experience normal social groupings
These can be used as a checklist to determine if an animal’s physical and psychological needs are being met.
Raising public awareness - Through protests, distributing information and through the media, the suffering of performing animals is reaching the general public.
Legislation - Local municipalities can best protect performing animals by enacting bylaws that prohibit wild and exotic animal acts. In Canada alone, 30 municipalities have passed such legislation.
Recommending alternatives - There are many highly successful animal-free circuses. As well, lotteries, sporting and cultural events have proved to work well for many charities.
In 2002, Voice for Animals made its second attempt to have a bylaw passed to prohibit performing wild animals in the City of Edmonton. Councillor Allan Bolstad supported us in this attempt by tabling an inquiry to the Community Services Committee. Presentations were made to the committee by interested parties and in March of 2003, Councillor Bolstad put a motion before Council.
Although the motion to pass a bylaw was defeated, we felt we had made headway. Public awareness was raised as the Inquiry made its way through the committee process at City Hall. There was media attention, both positive and negative, from all the major media outlets in Edmonton.
Two very positive things resulted from this process: the Shriners were forced to admit that the circus money was not used for charitable purposes; they also admitted that the company they rented their elephant act from mistreated their animals. They later switched to another supplier.
Events that use wild and exotic animals in the City of Edmonton:
The trend is undeniable; the days of hauling animals around and abusing them in the name of entertainment are quickly coming to an end. All around the world, cities and entire countries are banning exotic-animal circus acts. In Canada alone, 30 municipalities have banned entertainment using wild and exotic animals. Edmonton, however, has consistently proven to be behind the curve.
Shrine Circus - This is an annual event sponsored by the local Al Shamal Shriners. Although the circus has a long history in the Shrine organization, the money raised does not go to the Shrine Hospitals or other charities. In an exchange between Councillor Allan Bolstad and the Shriners in a City Council Committee Meeting, the president of the Al Shamal Shriners admitted that the money from the Shrine Circus was being used for administration - not for charitable causes.
Visiting Circuses, Moscow Circus on Ice - This circus featured bears wearing skates and playing hockey. It is difficult to imagine what the trainers must have done to these animals to make them perform these acts. While in Alberta, the bears were housed at Doug’s Exotic Zoo in Red Deer in individual cages so small that most of the animals were unable to turn around or stand up to their full height.