Old-style Circus called Passé
Public concern over treatment of animals will force change, Halifax vet says
By KEVIN COX
Globe and Mail
Wednesday, August 1, 2001
Print Edition, Page A7
HALIFAX -- As hundreds of Halifax children flocked to an arena to see the elephants at the Shriners' circus yesterday, veterinarian Hugh Chisholm predicted the demise of the annual rite of summer.
The Halifax vet, part of an international group of veterinarians who believe that circuses train and confine animals inhumanely, said the public is beginning to shun shows that include tricks such as dancing bears, boxing kangaroos and tigers jumping through hoops.
Some circuses, fearing actions by local humane societies, are including more human clowns and acrobats instead of high-profile lions and tigers.
"Change is coming and I think it's just a matter of educating the public that this [performing circus animals] is passé. We don't see freaks at the circus any more and there is a reason for that: It's just not socially acceptable. This is just taking things one step further," he said.
Dr. Chisholm was one of more than two dozen protesters who carried placards and handed out pamphlets decrying the show by the Tarzan Zerbini Circus, which included performing elephants, a kangaroo and several dogs.
The veterinarian said concerns about animals being transported in small trailers and cages, and being mistreated and forced to perform silly tricks is starting to sink in with the public. About 25 Canadian municipalities have banned live-animal performances, including six communities in Nova Scotia.
"It's not just a bunch of animal-rights activists out here [protesting]. There are people out here who represent educated professionals in this province," he said.
Earlier this year, the ringmaster and an animal trainer with the George Cardin Circus pleaded guilty and were fined $200 each for causing privation and neglect to five bears in Mount Pearl, Nfld., by keeping them in cages that were too small.
That case marked the first time a circus performing in Canada had been convicted under animal-protection legislation.
The demonstration yesterday was ignored by many parents who took their children to the show, but it clearly irritated some members of the Shriners organization, which takes the circuses to Atlantic Canada to raise about $100,000 a year