Animals for Amusement

Our primitive ancestors made use of a variety of animals in order to suit their day-to-day needs. As times evolved, humans developed the ability to dedicate more time for themselves.

They needed to fill up their time with alternate means. And thus, the concept of entertainment was born. This was all well and good, until we started to involve animals in our need for entertainment.

“Animals that Amaze!”

Back in 1831, Henri Martin in Germany entered a cage with a tiger and changed the entertainment industry forever. Wild animals became a prop for amusement. An American trainer, Isaac Van Amburgh followed in his footsteps by introducing trained animals including tigers, leopards, lambs, and lions to the stage.

More light has been shed on the welfare of these animals in recent years. We now know how they are being treated behind the curtains, as well as during their own acts. For instance, animals such as tigers naturally fear fire, but they are still forced to jump through fire hoops in some circuses. They regularly suffer from burns while doing so. Moreover, trainers still use whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bull hooks and other painful tools of the trade to force animals to perform.

Travelling Amusements

Behind closed doors, the situation obviously worsens. Animals starring in circuses are housed in small traveling crates. Such confinement has harmful psychological effects on them. You can notices these effects by unnatural behaviour such as repeated swaying, and pacing. The lack of exercise and long hours standing on hard surfaces are major contributors to foot infections and arthritis; a leading causes of death among captive elephants.

The introduction of animal-free circuses became a growing public demand, which promote the thrills, chills, and excitement of the circus minus the exploitation of wildlife. There is an animal-free circus to suit every taste, which consist of acts done by professional, talented humans. You can catch a show in old-fashioned big tops, in parks, and thoroughly modern productions in large venues.

“Conservation not Deprivation”

According to the National Geographic Society, zoos are places where wild animals are kept for public display. Zoos claim to save and conserve wildlife and they are often referred to as sophisticated breeding centres, where endangered species may be protected and studied. However, despite this, according to an article written by Zoe Rosenberger back in 2019 for Sentiment Media, animals which are held in captivity – in zoos in particular – have reduced commodities and are found in inadequate conditions.

Zoos engage in animal exploitation by earning off the attention and conservation donations they receive from visitors while providing a low quality of life for the caged animals. Due to these stressful conditions, animals even die prematurely in zoos, rather than being left running free in their natural environment. It was even estimated that African elephants in the wild live more than three times as long as those kept in zoos. Moreover, 40% of lion cubs die before one month of age in zoos, while in the wild, only 30% of cubs are thought to die before they are six months old and at least a third of those deaths are due to factors which are absent in zoos, like predation.

“Happy Fish, Happy People”

Like zoos, aquaria and marine parks are also a growing concern for the wellbeing of captive marine animals. Places like SeaWorld are part of a growing entertainment industry which feeds off the maltreatment of intelligent and extraordinary animals. They are living in ponds of water, when they were made to live in the open sea, making up more than 70% of the Earth’s surface. Orcas and other dolphins in the wild live in enormous, complicated social groupings and travel vast miles in the open ocean every day. They are only allowed to swim in endless loops inside tanks that are the equivalent of bathtubs in captivity, depriving them of almost any natural behaviour. What happens then?

This forced change of habitat and natural instincts can result in serious physiological problems such as attacking other orcas or dolphins, or even humans. When trainers impose learning and performance of meaningless tricks to entertain a clueless crowd, there’s bound to be a reaction! It stems from a lack of understanding of the pain and suffering these animals go through on a daily basis.

A Call for Action

A famous orca, named Tilikum, was experiencing physiological problems that developed during its time in captivity. Tilikum lashed out and killed SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau and two other people. The death of Tilikum made a significant impact on the world of animal captivity, with organisations like PETA urging SeaWorld to ban breeding and in turn send animals to wildlife sanctuaries.

As the poet and author, Alice Walker once said; “The animals of this world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans.” Animals were not put on this earth to live in a cage, suffer, and be torn from their families and habitat. Whether they be in movies, zoos, circuses, or bullfighting rings, we continue to use animals as sources of entertainment. Through appropriate management and care provided by NGOs and governments all over the world, this urgent problem can be addressed to give these animals the life they were meant to have, a life which is wild and free.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and are not reflective of ‘A Bird’s Eye View’ as a whole.


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