Dear Editor, It’s that time of year when the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus rolls into Austin. With dwindling ticket sales nationwide, Ringling updated its 2016 shows with an ice floor and aerial acrobatics. You might notice another change: no elephants. In 2015, Austin City Council voted to ban the use of painful devices such as bullhooks on circus animals within city limits. In response to Austin’s ban and bans in other U.S. cities, Ringling announced in May the “retirement” of elephants from its shows. This was a bittersweet victory. Elephants will no longer perform but will, instead, be outsourced for cancer research. Over 80 circus animals remain and will be forced to endure long periods of confinement, punishment-based training, and exhausting travel. Animals are sometimes drugged or have their teeth/claws surgically removed. It is these harms that cause animals to fight or escape, resulting in injuries and public-safety concerns. The good news is that Austin offers many family activities that place animal welfare above demeaning and dangerous tricks. Visit the Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary, where rescued and rehabilitated animals live in natural surroundings. Attend Circus Chickendog, featuring humanely trained and treated rescue dogs. Austin also has two circus groups, Sky Candy Austin and Blue Lapis Light, who perform aerial dance and can teach your family how to swing on the trapeze. An even more interactive experience for children is to plan a trip to one of Texas’ reputable sanctuaries such as the Society for Animal Rescue and Adoption (SARA) in Seguin, Rowdy Girl Sanctuary in Angleton, or Dreamtime Animal Sanctuary in Elgin. The livelihood of these sanctuaries depends on community involvement. Your visit will mean more than filling a stadium seat. In a world of options, choose “cruelty free” because the show can go on … without animal suffering.
Abigail E. Cameron Action for Animals Austin (AFAA)