Nicotera: The circus is back in town

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Nicotera: The circus is back in town


By Lorraine Nicotera

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


The circus is back in town.


    This year, they brought back their elephants Jewel and Tina, after a two year gap.


    According to Cole Brothers, they are trying to make their acts "fresh and new."


    According to the International Society for the Protection of Exotic Animal Kind and Livestock. (ISPEAK). these two elephants are what remains of their original nine.


    Two were sold after repeated rampages in 1995.


    One died in 1997 due to poor foot complications.


    Two died in 1999 that had extensive health problems.


    2001 One was put to sleep due to severe leg injury died


    2003 One elephant was retired


    ISPEAK states that in the past, the circus vet stated that elephant Jewel has a bulge in the base of her tail that could rupture if doing leg stands.


    Weymouth‘s own Senator Hedlund has been a big advocate for these elephants. He has introduced SB 2457 that will prohibit non-human primates, wild cats, bears, elephants, giraffes, rhinoceroses, and hippopotamuses in traveling shows and circuses in the state of Massachusetts. Senator Hedlund has done some extensive research on this issue and, it appears, has compassionately come to the conclusion that there is a darker side to animal circuses. I am happy to have him on our side.


    "The animal circus industry works hard to promote itself as an exciting brand of family entertainment, but there is a darker side to the circus that most visitors never see…" Thus starts the section on the website that will give us the reasons how animals are mistreated in their training and life in the circus.


    If you are on the fence about all this, or even open-minded and are willing to see both sides, then I suggest that you think of these points:


    Even if the circus loves their animals and treats them well, is it right to capture or breed a wild animal, an animal that has not been genetically manipulated by humans over thousands of years to become domesticated, and keep him in a cage and force him to adhere to human rules? As a wildlife rehabilitator, the concept of being wild is so important that a rehabber would rather put an unreleasable animal to death, rather than "keep" her as a pet. Rehabbers understand that wild animals are happiest when they are in their native habitat, able to make their own choices on food, friends and fun.


    Jonathan Balcombe, in his book "Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good," writes, "The cliché that animals’ lives are a constant struggle for survival should have gone the way of the big game hunters. … the mass media often perpetuate the stereotype that life is harsh and joyless for wild creatures…. that from the moment of birth, (wild) animals struggle against the odds." He then writes, "For many, interpreting nature as cruel and harsh serves an insidious purpose: the continued exploitation of animals by humans."


    As a society, and these animal circuses encourage us to think so, we like to think that wild animals welcome the safe, secure life of a circus, where they don’t have to be worried about poachers, or droughts, or predators or disease. But the wild isn’t wild to them, it is their home.


I ask the reader if you were to think about your own life along the same lines you think about these "lucky" wild animals in the circus, would you prefer a life in a prison giving you three meals a day, a steady job, your own room, someone else’s rules to follow; to your free life now, where at any given moment you can get into a bad car accident, or be abducted or robbed, or struck by lightening, or drown at the beach, or your house be burglarized. Because these are the risks we take by being "free." And most of us wouldn’t give up our independence for any guaranteed security if it meant giving up our basic freedoms.



    These exotic animals are wild animals, they are not dogs or cats, who are accustomed and bred to live side by side with humans. These are individuals who are independent beings who are happiest when they make their own choices, even if it’s in the big scary "wild."


    Please support Senator Hedlund’s bill. Please help these animals be happy again. If you go to the circus, let them know they don’t need the wild animals to be a fun time, for it’s no fun for the animals. Let them know you want to be entertained by humans who want to be there.


    And visit for more information about wild animals and what really constitutes a happy life for them.



     Lorraine Nicotera is vice president of the South Shore Humane Society. She has been a vegan for about 11 years, and a wildlife rehabilitator. She can be reached at



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