Protestors advocate for circus animal rights

Image of Shawna O'Neill
By Shawna O'Neill
Protestors advocate for circus animal rights
Animal activists protesting Canadas Circus Spectacular at the Cornwall Civic Complex (Shawna O'Neill/Seaway News photo).

CORNWALL, Ontario – As families made their way into Cornwall’s Civic Complex to watch Canada’s Circus Spectacular on Sunday, June 22, a group of animal activists aimed to educate them about how circus shows may exploit animals, which isn’t so ‘spectacular’.

“There’s no reason to have circuses with animals,” said Michele Thorn, member of the Ottawa Animal Defence League. “There’s plenty of circuses around the world that don’t. Of course one is Cirque du Soleil, which has been wildly successful, and they’ve never used animals. You can have a great show and don’t have to exploit animals at the same time.”

Thorn said that her advocacy group has been protesting circuses, among other events, since 2008. She explained that because of activist efforts across the province, circuses that incorporate animals have become drastically less frequent. Thorn said that for example, Shrine Circus is no longer allowed to bring elephants into the country and used to host 22 shows across the province, which has now shrunk to about two.

“We saw year after year more and more protestors and fewer people going in. We absolutely know we had an impact,” said Thorn. “We don’t believe animals should be used for entertainment in any way.”

Thorn said that she doesn’t believe the company in Cornwall currently incorporates any animals other than horses.

“People may think that’s okay because there’s no wild animals, like dolphins in other circuses, but we still think it’s exploiting these (horses) because naturally they don’t do tricks like that; it’s just pure entertainment. They’re doing it because they were trained to do that with whips…trainers (may) use whips to get them to comply,” said Thorn, who also noted that the horses are being transported from coast to coast unnecessarily, which she said is proven to cause the animals stress.

“The problem that circuses have is they never kept up with modern times…they still rely on tradition and people don’t want to see that anymore (as you can see from all the support today). Cirque du Soleil has always been really modern and that has kept it spectacular, but this is just tired old same old,” said Thorn.

Thorn believes that social media has also played a role in people advocating against animals in circuses, as video footage has shown some animals may be whipped during performances.

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