No Circus for Me

Today I had to explain to my children why we couldn’t go to the circus this year. I t wasn’t the money – we probably could have scored free tickets. It wasn’t that we had other plans that day.

It was because their parents don’t like the way the circus treats their animals.

I feel awful about this. My kids loved the circus last year.circus_elephants_whips

As if it isn’t bad enough that there are 17,000 kids there – easily a third of whom are far too young to appreciate the spectacle.

As if it isn’t a shitty show.

As if the clown don’t freak me out.

As if $8.00 popcorn isn’t an insult to everybody’s intelligence.

Then you have to sit there and see the poor white tigers. Sure, they are beautiful, but they aren’t natural. The elephants look sad. The whole place smells, and the only way in isΒ  to walk your children through all of the picketers.

The fliers that the picketers are handing out are right, and heaven forbid your 3 year old catches sight of the picture on the PETA fliers. That crap gives me nightmares.

So after my husband was in a unique position to see the circus unloading the elephants and tigers and other animals off of the tractor trailers with cattle prods we decided that we were not going to go to the circus again.

I don’t know which was worse – seeing my kids little faces when I told them we weren’t going to the circus again or seeing their faces when I told them why.

I feel really icky about the whole thing, but I know if we keep buying tickets the circus will keep buying inbred animals. I cannot support this. I feel awful that I had to deprive my kids for my own personal politics. I feel terrible that I had to explain cruelty to animals to my four year olds.

I guess we can’t shield them from injustice forever.

On the upside, I promised them I would take them to the next absurdity on ice that came to town instead. I figure the only harm there is done to my wallet and sensibilities.

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  1. I have never really thought about this as our kids are still pretty young, but you make a good point. I think due to the protesters alone I would be hesitant to take my kids to the circus due to much of what you mention. We, too, are doing Disney on Ice this year though.

  2. I have a hard time walking around the zoo and seeing the animals in cages. It breaks my heart a little each time. I just hope that they have a good life even if it isn’t natural for them. Being a parent is tough sometimes. I support the absurdity on ice idea. Good idea!

    Big hugs!!

  3. I never got the circus thing, even as a child. Possibly because clowns have always creeped me out. I can’t go to zoos any more, after seeing animals roaming wild in Africa. The gorillas look like imprisoned slaves to me.

    What a downer I am to hang out with around animals!

  4. I have never been to a circus even a crappy little one with animals. The only time the circus came to town as a kid, I was in a dance class in another town. This year we have managed to score half price tickets to Cirque de Soleil so I am going damnit and I am going to enjoy it, we all are. I am thankful that there are no animals performing there.

  5. Oh I agree. There is nothing entertaining about that spectacle. I find it so disturbing. I think that it should be illegal to keep animals for this purpose. It should be illegal for these shows to exist. Nobody needs them.
    Good on you.

  6. I think you made the absolute right decision. My Mom made the same one when we were kids. I 100% appreciate that she did.

  7. I don’t know about the whole “not going to the circus” idea; I’ll mull that over before weighing in. But.. a cursory look into white tigers suggest the web site you referenced isn’t 100% correct.

    The “white tiger” is a result of a deviant gene that occurs naturally in the species. This gene also makes the tiger larger which could account for the survival of the gene. The majority of the white tigers are the result of forced breeding for zoos, etc. however there are “natural” white tigers in the wild.

    Again, I am not sure if I agree with your conclusion – don’t support the circus – but as the one cited website is itself misleading, I question the whole argument.

  8. I loudly applaud this decision, Sarah. Big high-fives. I dread this conversation with my daughter and my extended family so very much but it’s important to raise our kids to be critical thinkers and compassionate earthlings:)


  9. Lori,

    I wish you were right.


    I learned about this the hard way. I fell in love with some white tiger cubs when I saw them nursing at Lowry Park zoo in November. I was proud of my pictures and posted them on flickr. The animal rights activists came out of nowhere.

    I had no idea before, but now I know.

  10. merseydotes says:

    Hooray for you, Sarah. I knew I liked you. 😎 We have never taken Petunia to a circus, and this year it came up briefly and we explained that the people who run the circus don’t treat the animals very nicely and it’s not a nice way for the animals to live. (I refrained from quoting Water for Elephants.)

    I also bit my tongue on a local moms listserv when people were discussing how to best see the parade of elephants and one mom said “I know there are some concerns, but it’s the circus! How can I not take my kid???” I instead calmly posted a couple links from the Humane Society about circus animals, and the discussion ended. I like to think I did that. 😎

  11. Yay for you! I have been protesting the circus since I was a kid. I hate the whole thing!

  12. I’ve never taken my son to the circus… I just avoid the whole topic- it’s not the best way to parent- but it’s worked for me and the circus…

    I’ll never be confused with the ‘mother-of-the-year’ :)

  13. Have you read the book “Water for Elephants”?

  14. White tigers or not, the animals are still not treated well. You did the right thing.

  15. I agree with you completely. And don’t even get me started on rodeos. We went to one in Mexico (I was opposed but it was a business group and everyone went) where the horse broke a leg while being ridden. The announcer assured everyone that a vet had been called but I’m sure the horse was shot after everyone left.

  16. I always sort of secretly cheer when one of the elephants goes ape shit and tosses a trainer around like a rag doll.

    And I GO for the smell.

  17. I think you’re doing the right thing. Spawn won’t be going either. Oh, and clowns creep me out too… plus, they’re not funny.

  18. I feel you. Not a fan of anthropomorphizing animals. Let an elephant be an elephant. It’s a beautiful, majestic animal who is not improved by a tiara, tutu, and Tchaikovsky.

    Not a circus girl. The clowns freak me out and if I wanted my kids to see scantily clad chicks in leotards, I just drive around town. They can see that (and less) on the billboards around here.

  19. We aren’t taking Max either. I always thought the circus was creepy, even when I was a little kid. All those miserable- looking animals, plodding around in circles while old men poked them with sticks.

    I’ll take him to the zoo, since it at least benefits conservation efforts–or at least I would if the National Zoo weren’t inexplicably uphill in every direction and my 25-week-pregnant uterus weren’t contracting every time I did something more strenuous than pour a cup of decaf.

  20. good for you. I feel the same way about the Circus. Well, that and I just don’t like the circus.

    Another option for you and your kids is Cirque du Soleil. They poke and prod their performers, but I don’t think most of them mind.

  21. I will be 40 next month and I have never been to a circus, nor will I ever. I do not like how the animals are treated. That, and I am terrified by clowns. I am so not kidding. I peed my pants during the 4th of July parade when the Shriners Clowns came towards me in their stupid clown cars. I was 10.

  22. I feel the same way about rodeos. My family were all framers and ranchers, but the animals are treated differently now. I don’t ever feel good about supporting that or the circus anymore.

  23. I hated the circus when I was a kid, even though I couldn’t put into words why. The animals just looked so sad. I went once as an adult, and I still hated it. Haven’t been back.

  24. I’m with you on this one. I saw some circus elephants outside their venue once and the sight of them in the grocery store parking lot (standing on all that hard, cold pavement) just made me so sad. Luckily my kids have never asked to go.

  25. I was so looking forward to taking mine to the circus and then I did some research into the “unicorn” that they had in 80’s. We won’t be going. Ever.

  26. In a related thought (since you sometimes ask for book recommendations) I just read “Water for Elephants” which is about a circus (in the 1930s). If the book is at all accurate, looks likes the bad animal treatment is a long-standing tradition.

  27. Good job! The right thing to do is usually the hardest, icky-est, and it never feels clean and simple. You definitely did the right thing. Ian and Claudia are lucky to have you as their mom.

  28. Good for you for taking a stand and teaching your kids that some things are important enough to sacrifice for. If you continue to teach them things like this, they won’t remember missing the circus, they’ll remember how to be principled people.

  29. Dude, have you ever watched them unloading the skaters from the train? And talk about inbreeding…

    So, are you still down with the zoo, or is that off limits too?

    What about Chuck E. Cheese? I’m pretty sure that rat is mistreated.

  30. Jennifer says:

    Take them to the Big Apple Circus – it comes every fall, and is fabulous. They work with horses and dogs, and are apparently very animal-friendly.

  31. Hear! Hear! We don’t go to the circus either for this very reason. Nevermind that the whole culture is also really creepy. And I told my kids, ages 5 and 3, about the animals. They were so distraught, but I feel better telling them the truth.

  32. BRAVO! Theo will NEVER EVER EVER go to a circus for all the reasons you mentioned. And I’m already dreading having to tell him he can’t go but that is not something we support in the least and I don’t want him to be apart of it OR to have the circus get our money.

    You did a good thing. If only more parents would agree.

  33. You already know how I feel about the hideous treatment of animals but the clowns, oh how I dislike them. I have a colleague who…clowns professionally and she was quite hurt when I shared this but it’s always been a problem for me.

    Sorry to all the clowns and clown fans out there:

  34. KUDOS to you! I think it was a great decision.

  35. Good for you. Damn good for you.

  36. We went that night and while I enjoyed it I will admit that I did think the elephants looked really sad and the tigers lethargic. Which made me sad and start to question things that I had squashed before that. I loved the circus as a kid and wanted my kids to experience that excitement. Seeing it as an adult is a whole other matter.

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