Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus has offered a free ticket to one of their shows for any Cleveland Metropolitan School District's kindergarten through 6th grade student who has perfect attendance. While we understand the importance of education and attendance, Cleveland Schools should not encourage students' participation in cruel animal entertainment as an incentive to improve their attendance. We respectfully ask that they find a humane incentive, one that does not harm and exploit animals.
Circuses that use and exploit animals make lofty claims about their "educational" value and their contributions to "conservation." But the real message being taught to children is that it is acceptable to exploit and mistreat animals for amusement and profit.
Circus animals spend their lives traveling about 11 months out of the year, locked in cages and shackled, and spend days at a time on train cars. Standard circus industry practice is to "train" with physical punishment. Bull hooks, whips, electrical prods and other devices are routinely used to inflict pain and fear to force the elephants, tigers and other animals to perform unnatural tricks night after night -- all for a few moments of human amusement.
In their native habitat, these “circus animals”, including lions, tigers and elephants, are constantly on the move. Elephants, for example, live in large, social herds and walk up to 25 miles every day. In addition to the physical mistreatment the animals endure in the circus, depriving these creatures of the freedom to roam and engage in their instinctual behaviors is inherently cruel.
While many people associate the circus with "safe, wholesome, family fun" — an association promoted aggressively by the circus PR machine — the truth is much darker. There is no family fun to be had at an event that involves such cruelty and suffering. Let us teach our children values of respect and compassion for animals by learning about/seeing them in their natural states, not as captives forced and beaten into unnatural displays for our entertainment.
The message that Ringling Bros Circus and all animal circuses sends to children is that it is acceptable to exploit and mistreat animals for amusement and profit. We ask that the school district instead find a humane alternative as an incentive, one that does not harm animals, and investigate collaborations with our local resources, such as tickets to the Great Lakes Science Center/IMAX, sporting events or movies.
Be an example of compassion and end your partnership with Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.