The circus is coming, and so are the protesters
A few things to think about when you see activists in elephant costumes
Local protesters want you to think twice before taking your kids to watch the elephants in the circus.
by Paul Bowers
March 03, 2014
The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus is coming to the North Charleston Coliseum on Wednesday, and the promised spectacles are timeless: The Stars of the Steel Vortex acrobatic act! Ukrainian trampoline tumblers! A man who will kiss a 300-pound tiger!
But for some, the show will start and end outside the doors of the Coliseum. Animal rights activists are organizing protests during each of the eight performances, hoping to deter families from buying tickets to the self-proclaimed "Greatest Show on Earth."
"Bears, elephants, tigers, lions, and other animals do not voluntarily ride bicycles, stand on their heads, balance on balls, or jump through rings of fire," writes Melissa Judge, a Florida animal activist, in an e-mail about protests taking place at circus stops from San Diego, Calif., to Uniondale, N.Y. She adds:
Neither child nor adult should be giving a single dollar to Ringling Bros. because they will use it to buy stun guns, whips, electrical prods, and bullhooks to torture their animals with until they comply. For your entertainment. This is nothing less than slavery."
On a Facebook event page about the protests, activists are told not to yell, chant, or engage with patrons. "Patrons have already purchased tickets, so our goal is to educate and deter from future attendance," the page reads. Protesters are also encouraged to dress as clowns, elephants, or ring masters "to make the children more at ease and less afraid of us protesters." As of Monday morning, 39 people had responded to say they will attend the protests.
The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus also sometimes features horses, tigers, and dogs. - PROVIDED
The five-day circus engagement in North Charleston is also included on a list of activism opportunities posted by the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
"I've been protesting circuses for quite some time," says Lisa Scharin, a Summerville woman who plans to attend the protests at the Coliseum. Scharin is involved with PETA, Greenpeace, Defense of Animals, Animal Defenders, Born Free, and the World Wildlife Fund, and she says she even went undercover once to videotape alleged mistreatment of tigers and elephants at a Cole Bros. circus.
"I would say that any circus that was traveling like that, there's no way it could be humane," Scharin says. "Animals, they can't speak for themselves. It's amazing to me that anyone would think it's fine to put an animal like that into a boxcar, into an 18-wheeler."
Feld Entertainment Inc., the owner of the circus act and Disney on Ice, has a rough history with animal rights groups, and it was the subject of a scathing Mother Jones exposé in 2011, "The Cruelest Show on Earth." Company spokesperson Ashley Smith says the circus encounters protesters in every town it visits.