The End of the Circus

12 “We have enslaved the rest of the animal creation and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form.” – William Ralph Inge

Circus protests sadden, fascinate, and uplift me. I get a sinking feeling when I see the inside of the dank and sordid trucks that transport the elephants across the country in the most extreme conditions. I feel terrible every time I leave a protest knowing that I’m leaving those animals behind to continue to endure a life of confinement and suffering. I think of the look of helplessness in their eyes and the way they beg for mercy with their screams and it devastates me endlessly.

At the same time, I feel heartened and proud to stand side-by-side with so many brave and selfless volunteers who give their time to save animals’ lives and I feel encouraged to see people end their support of the circus once they learn the truth.


There are three types of people who pay to see the circus: the angry-nasty-cursing-middle-finger-raising-spitters, the befuddled-naïve-followers, and the good-hearted-changers. For purposes of this article, they will be referred to as the spitters, the followers, and the changers, respectively.

The Spitters
As soon as the spitters approach a protest, they get very angry and the carousel of lunacy begins. No information documenting the abuse of animals on a leaflet, no posters showing the cruel training procedures, transport, or confinement, no DVD with undercover investigations illustrating the abuse and neglect or the fines and convictions, and no rational discussion about animal rights impacts them. They see protestors and begin cursing, try to hit them with their car, throw objects out their window, challenge them to fights, and become irate that anybody would stand in the way of them and their cruel entertainment. They feel entitled. They fake laugh at protestors and scream things like “Get a life!” and “I love to torture animals! Beat the elephants!” in a fruitless attempt to goad volunteers. All of these unprovoked behaviors are usually on display in front of their children. It’s hard to distinguish between the spitters and the circus employees who abuse the animals.

The Followers
The followers don’t know what to say, where to go, or what to do. They’re frozen like a hunter in headlights. They see the protestors’ explicit signs and scratch their heads as they walk past them. They whisper things to each other like “What’s that all about?” feigning curiosity as they walk past posters revealing wanton abuse of animals. They motion to the people in front of them and say to their children “Follow them.” They stare, point, and walk faster to get inside before someone can stop them. They’re scared, mystified, stupefied, and mesmerized but rarely ever enough to stop to learn more. They hide behind other people, look down in shame, and generally don’t show any interest in facts. No matter how gentle the approach or how far the protestor extends a hand, they shake, rattle, and run. They live in denial and they don’t want to know the truth. They fear their conscience.

The Changers
The changers show interest, they read the literature, they stop to speak with protestors, and they look concerned. Most of them are innocent in their intentions and good-hearted. They love some animals but haven’t figured out the importance of loving all animals yet. They’ve never thought about it before; the same way many of the protestors didn’t think about it before they learned the truth.

The changers say, “Wait, the employees abuse the animals?” with tears in their eyes. They listen, ask questions, and talk to other members of their family. Most of all, they often turn around and leave, throw away their tickets, don’t buy tickets, and even join the protest. They find other forms of entertainment that don’t involve abusing animals. They realize they weren’t thinking. Now they are. These people care, they give the animal protection community hope, and they remind protestors that their efforts are worthwhile. They are the target audience and their decisions matter. Their potential to impact change should never be underestimated. One changed child or adult may start the next Mercy for Animals, Farm Sanctuary, or PETA, run for public office, or advocate in their own way. It’s not always how many people the protestors reach but rather who they reach that matters. The changers make the protest worth it every time because they changed.

Why Protest?
The purpose of these protests is to end the use of animals in circuses. There is no humane way to capture, confine, transport, train, abuse, neglect, and exploit an animal. These are myths promoted by the people who seek to profit by duping the public. Many circuses and other forms of entertainment such as Cirque du Soleil do not use animals. Animals are not meant to entertain people; they are meant to live their lives freely in their natural habitats. Please get involved and attend the next protest in your area. You are these animals only hope. Don’t let the spitters win.


8 thoughts on “The End of the Circus

    1. Thank you very much Maribel. That’s a very nice thing to say. Thank you for joining us at the protest.

    1. Thank you very much Sharon. I appreciate your compassion for animals. You are a great person. Hopefully we planted some seeds of change.

  1. An extremely important post. Have posted to Fb’s Save Queenie Save Elephants page both as a post and a document. THANK YOU.

    I believe that signs need to be oriented to the Followers – short slogans in very large font (black on white, not red on black which cannot be seen at night), that the eye can take in quickly and the “seed” the brain. Facts are easier to retain. Tricks = Ruined Joints. This is an idea that is “seeded” before the performance – People can see for themselves how standing on two legs could ruin joints. Allegations of abuse are hard for “nice” people to wrap their heads around because most “nice” people just cannot accept that other people can be so cruel. The carnies are superb con-men and people believe them when they say that a bullhook is a guide (unless they have seen Water for Elephants) or that the elephants are trained with positive reinforcement. “We have all been lied to,” put both us and the circus goer in the same boat. or during, “Look for Hidden Tazers – in the Hand” lets people know they are being used, and most people understand that the use of a tazer is over the top and abusive. “Abuse is always done – behind closed doors.” It’s a little long, but people know that statement to be true.

    With Changers they are the ones who can be asked to take video and photos to post on YouTube in case they see abuse and to look for the tazers. It makes them part of the change.

    I give the PETA DVD to the police and tell them I know they see a lot of domestic violence and this is why we protest. I tell them not to show it in front of their kids as it is too graphic. This seeds the idea that there really is something going on. I had one policeman tell me he understood that the animals were really well taken care of. The retort to that is – What town will allow the animals to run to get exercise? None. They are constantly in those cages unless to perform. Somehow this is news.

    It is wonderful to see so many participating to protest the slavery of innocent animals. We are the abolitionists as those in the 1850s and one day these unfortunate and innocent animals will freed from circus life.

  2. “One changed child or adult may start the next Mercy for Animals, Farm Sanctuary, or PETA, run for public office, or advocate in their own way.”

    When I was young, my parents took me to the Greatest Show On Earth. I was captivated by all the color, sound and excitement…until the tiger and elephant acts. My heart sank as I watched the unnatural acts they were forced – by whip and hook – to perform. My parents assured me the animals were fine but it just never felt that was the case.That started a chain of events that, sure enough, led to the start of CJ Acres Animal Rescue Farm.

    Sometimes change is caused by one big event but usually it’s a series of small, perhaps unnoticeable situations. The sign you hold…the post you make…the blog you write, just might add to one person’s journey to do something amazing for animals. You’ll likely never know it, but it happens.

  3. A vegan acquaintance of mine recently posted about a great concert she went to at the zoo. I was surprised she would go to the zoo. So I asked “The zoo?” and she replied by posting about how great the venue was. This is someone who I have looked up to as a devoted vegan. The ability of even the best people to refuse to see what they don’t want to see just saddens me sometimes.

  4. Really hate what goes on in the world what chance have the animals got.even hitting dogs to kill and eat.its heatbreaking.more people like us to go against all this cruelty.thank you for all you do.

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