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Animals in entertainment: is our amusement worth their suffering?

 

By Destra Moses

The inhumane use of animals in entertainment is pervasive and includes but is not limited to bullfights, elephant rides, lion walks, cockfights, and marine and land wildlife ‘performances.’  As animal advocates, let’s stop taking part in this mistreatment. 

Facts about the use of animals for entertainment: Bullfights are not ‘fair fights’ but highly staged forms of government-subsidized animal cruelty that perpetuate the idea that torturing and killing animals for amusement is acceptable.  



Most trained acts involving predatory animals thrived (and often still do) on the potential for danger. Trainers include whips and chairs in their act for dramatic effect. To perform these thrilling acts, trainers first gain dominance over the animal behind the scenes. The most popular ways to ‘gain dominance’ are by beating, starving, whipping, or even pulling an animal’s teeth to reduce the likelihood of injury to the trainer.

Many species of animals are used in circuses, zoos, movies, exotic animal encounters, and other forms of entertainment. You can find tigers, lions, bears, sloths, elephants, fish, whales, dolphins, dogs, cats, monkeys, donkeys, horses, giraffes, and camels within the entertainment sector. 

Keeping wild animals in captivity is usually a dangerous idea. Many incidents related to wild animals could have been prevented if the animals were not kept as pets, performers, or exhibits.  All too often animals attack their trainers in circuses and other live shows. Wild animals are unpredictable. If they are startled, stressed, or enraged by something, there is not much a human can do to stop them from attacking.

These incidents are incredibly unfortunate for the humans involved and they are just as tragic for the animals, who never asked to be put in these situations. These animals never had a chance at a normal life.  No animal should be kept in captivity, period.  

Animals in captivity are unable to fully exhibit natural tendencies like foraging, socializing, or swimming. Many animals suffer physically and psychologically when confined. Animals-especially large animals-need adequate space to roam, swim and explore. 

Aside from large zoos, privately-owned zoos and exotic animal encounters are other areas of ethical concern. Investigations have found emaciated animals, dead and decaying animals, and psychologically distraught animals in zoos, including exotic petting zoos around the world. Yet zoos like this still exist around the world. 

They will continue to stay in business as long as people continue buying tickets. The best way to help animals within these horrific environments is to stop supporting establishments that keep animals in captivity. When animals are exploited for human profit, cruelty is never far behind.  Cruelty in animal entertainment is not exclusive to one or two companies. 

Circuses, animal shows, races, and other forms of entertainment put animals in danger and strip them of their natural environments and behaviors.

Marine parks like SeaWorld cause physical and psychological damage to the animals held captive within them. In some parts of the world, marine animals are still taken from the wild and kept in enclosures for people to see. Wild whales and dolphins can swim up to 100 miles in one day and dive hundreds of meters with their pods but in captivity they are kept in tanks where they can only swim a few strokes before hitting a wall. 

They are forced to spend most of their day performing in shallow water or above the surface. This causes cataracts and other eye issues in whales and dolphins. Signs of severe psychological distress are often found in captive marine life. They will grind their teeth on the tank walls, show signs of aggression, self-harm, and be driven into psychotic episodes. 

It is also believed that SeaWorld feeds orcas a concoction of drugs including antipsychotics and benzodiazepines to reduce aggression and anxiety in their unnatural environments. Marine parks claim to be educational places for children to learn, but there is a much darker truth they keep hidden. 

Rodeos and bull riding: What started as a neighborly competition to see who could complete their daily farm chores faster has become a cruel source of entertainment around the world. The use of rope burning, electrical prods, brute force, testicular manipulation, and other scare tactics force these animals to react erratically while trying to escape. 

Instead of escaping, they are ridden by humans as part of a game to see who can ride them the longest. Calf tying is just as disturbing. Calves are lassoed, tackled, and tied, often suffering broken necks, broken limbs, damaged internal organs, or even death. Horses are also abused during rodeos.

Circuses: Chimpanzees are known as humans’ closest relatives because we share about 99 percent of our genetic blueprint with them. These animals are not treated like humans, though. They are subjected to confinement, abuse, and psychological damage like other circus animals.  A strong second of my love for dogs are elephants.  

Elephants are among the most abused in circuses, both physically and emotionally. These animals are incredibly social, intelligent, and friendly, but they are denied the opportunity to express these traits while training. Elephants are hit in the face, body, and ears with bullhooks if they move too much or try to socialize, and sometimes they are hit without doing anything wrong at all.

We can all help stop this. There are plenty of ways to help animals trapped within the entertainment sector. One of the simplest ways is to stop supporting the industries that exploit animals. Do not attend circuses, races, parks, or any other activities that harm animals.  

Another simple action you can take from the comfort of your own home is to sign petitions and share information on social media. If enough people sign petitions and start talking about the horrors within these industries, business owners will be more likely to change their ways.

Animals are still abused in most of the aforementioned ways to this day. Most of us are fascinated by animals, but that does not mean we should hold them captive so we can admire their beauty. We should push for reform in these industries because we love animals and want them to live happy lives, free from suffering.

Destra Moses is a guest columnist for Washington County News and Holmes County Advertiser. 



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