When one thinks of the circus, the picture of animals being treated cruelly does not come to mind.
However, Friday night, as patrons made their way to the ticket for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, they were bombarded with questions, “Would you like a pamphlet on gruesome acts done to baby elephants while being trained for the circus?”
A protestor dressed in an elephant suit staggered on crutches on the steps of the Tallahassee-Leon County Civic Center wearing a bandage around his head. Other People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals protestors held signs that read, “Wild Animals don’t belong behind bars,” while others handed out pamphlets.
Despite the raging protesters, hundreds came out to see a show full of spectacular fun, beautiful animals and talented professionals.
“I haven’t been to a circus, since I was five-years-old, so when I saw the advertisements on television, I decided to come out,” said Clarie Glenn, a Florida A&M pharmacy student.
“I have to say the event was fun, but the protesters did make you think. I could not help but notice the marks on the backs of the elephants.”
However, according PETA, “The Ringling Bros. circus, elephants are beaten, hit, poked, prodded, and jabbed with sharp hooks, sometimes until bloody. Ringling breaks the spirit of elephants,”
A spokesman for the circus ensured the patrons their animals are not only beautiful, but healthy.
This year’s tour allows guests to go and see the animals in their living conditions during the pre-show.
Inside the arena and during the show, the aroma of cotton candy, popcorn and snow cones filled the air as vendors served guests treats in souvenir containers. Acrobats jumped and flipped in a double ringed hamster-wheel, which had guests on the edge of their seats.
Elephants skipped and jumped in the ring, horses hurdled over one another, camels stood on two legs were only a few of the acts guests saw during the show.
The Torres family’s motorcycle act had guests roaring with excitement, as three motorcycles spun around a spherical cage. The Great Demetri, who weighed “as much as a refrigerator,” ended the show with a death-defying act in which a jeep, full of performers, rolled over his body.
By the end of night, the circus had its patrons forgetting all about limping elephant they saw on the way in. As they left with smiles on their faces, cotton candy in their teeth and children of all ages promising to come back to “The Greatest Show on Earth,” and the protesters and their pamphlets were no longer in sight.
“We had a lot of fun,” said Richard Williams, a Tallahassee resident visiting the circus with his daughter.
“My daughter loves animals and we even got a chance to tour backstage. It’s hard to believe that those animals are treated poorly, they were in such great spirits and gave such a great show.”
For more information on The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus visit http://www.ringling.com/.
For more information on PETA visit http://www.peta.org/.