Animal Rights Activists Want All Circuses to be Human-Only Acts

GREENSBORO — A protest Tuesday evening outside the Greensboro Coliseum Complex was not intended to end all circuses, organizers said.

Volunteers with Speak Out for Circus Animals think human-only acts in circuses can be just as profitable as those that include animal acts.

About a dozen protesters outside the coliseum — where UniverSoul Circus is performing until Sunday — encouraged passersby to honk horns and get involved in their movement to end the use of animals in circus performances.

“We don’t want to shut circuses down,” said Martha Cecil, a Greensboro activist who organized the protest. “We want them to be animal-free.”

Protesters want to ban all animals used in circuses because they are kept in cages or locked in boxcars for up to 12 hours a day while they are being transported. Their training is based on fear of whips and electric devices, she said.

The circus notes in its policy on the treatment of animals that all animal vendors face regulation from federal, state, and local animal welfare authorities. And it says the circus cares about the well being of its animals.

Cecil says animal abuse at circuses in general still exists and points to the case of Nosey the elephant, an animal with arthritis that was so bad she could hardly walk, but she was forced to perform tricks or give rides to children, Cecil said.

Circus animals have reacted aggressively or gone on rampages because of sickness, fear or panic, causing injuries to spectators, Cecil said.

Adding to health concerns, she said, are reports that elephants potentially could spread tuberculosis to humans.

In 2015, two elephants scheduled to perform in Dallas with UniverSoul Circus were banned from the city after they tested reactive for tuberculosis.

There are about 14 all-human circuses traveling the country that have such talented performers their audiences are as large as those that use animals, Cecil said.

Pressure from protesters led the famous Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus to remove its elephant acts. Citing high operating costs and the decline of ticket sales, which dropped after the elephants were phased out, Ringling announced May 4 will be its final show.

Asheboro resident Christopher Latham, 18, said a protest alone won’t cause a circus to shut down.

“But, it is a first step,” he said while protesting outside the coliseum Tuesday. “This is something anybody can do.”

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