Ringling Brothers is coming to Lexington on September 5-7, and that’s anything but good news for animal lovers. Although circuses present themselves as wholesome family fun, what goes on behind the bright lights of the big top is truly heartbreaking.

Forced to travel in confined crates, trucks and train cars for more than eight months of the year, circus animals suffer untold pain and anguish in the name of “entertainment.” Evidence of this extreme confinement is often expressed in animals as stereotypical or repetitive behaviors – a result of stress and lack of mental and physical stimulation.

This confinement and restriction also affects necessary socialization and companionship opportunities. As animals are housed improperly, even those that are lucky enough to have companionship opportunities cannot interact in appropriate ways. Limited space causes stress and anxiety to heighten during feedings, transfers, and other interactions.

Rigorous training, performance, and traveling schedules are often used as justification to restrict social interaction. For herd, pack, and troop animals, this isolation is devastating, causing severe mental anguish and early physical deterioration. Animals who are solitary by nature are often stacked in crates directly above or next to others, with no prospects for privacy. By their very design, traveling shows are incapable of providing the necessary space and enriched environments these amazing creatures require.

While the living conditions alone are reason enough to end the use of animals in circuses, the atrocities continue behind the scenes during training sessions. Naturally, animals are not inclined to willingly jump through flaming rings of fire, ride tricycles, or do headstands on stools. The training methods employed to accomplish these ridiculous tricks typically involve force, intimidation, and painful contraptions. Bull hooks, electric prods, spiked whips, and crowbars are frequently used to thrust animals into a desired position or beat them into submission. Food is often withheld in order to compel the animals to perform for their daily nutrition. This brutal treatment is happening behind the scenes all for the sake of “entertainment.”

Knowledge is power, but money creates change. Vote with your feet: boycott any circus, fair or sideshow featuring animals, and encourage your friends to do the same. You hold the key to free these animals from this tormented, unnatural life. Your voice is their only voice, and they need you to speak up for them.

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