Should parents take their children to the circus?
While going to the circus may be a favorite pastime for many adults, animal abuse allegations have led many parents to squirm at the thought of taking their children.
Animal activists have recently petitioned against Groupon, upset that the deal-of-the-day website has been offering deals for circuses. As PETA's action alert states, photo evidence suggests baby elephants are "surrounded by screaming handlers, who slam them to the ground, beat them, and break their spirits so that they will perform meaningless tricks under the big top. Unfortunately, even after learning about this history of abuse, Groupon continues to promote animal-based circuses through deals on its website."
The petition refers to an undercover video narrated by Alec Baldwin, where he alleges, "Circuses deny animals everything that is natural and important to them. Every basic instinct is met with punishment. As long as circuses continue to use elehpants, these intelligent beings will continue to experience enormous suffering. Please, never attend a circus that uses animals."
Groupon responded by posting on their Facebook page, "We stand behind our decision. Many circuses are local businesses in need of the same traffic and revitalized customer base that other small businesses turn to Groupon to provide, and we never assume an entire industry is represented by those who have broken the law."
Last year, the Ringling Brothers' parent company agreed to pay a $270,000 fine for allegedly violating the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), although they did not admit to violating the law.
The PETA vs. Groupon battle raises a broader question -- should animals be used for human entertainment?
For many parents, ignorance is bliss, but as allegations continue to emerge, it's harder to turn a blind eye from potential abuse they're paying for their children to witness.
As some of the conflicted parents debate in the HuffPost Live video above, they want to hear the facts from reputable news organizations. In her blog post "Should I Feel Guilty For Taking My Kids To The Circus?" Sasha Brown-Worsham wrote, "this animal cruelty charge doesn't seem to be covered by major investigative journalists. So, if it's true, it isn't being well publicized."
Brown-Worsham's blog post was written around the same time that Mother Jones released a haunting expose on "The Cruelest Show On Earth," featuring an exclusive investigation of the Ringling Brothers.
The independent news organization found in their year-long investigation that "Ringling elephants spend most of their long lives either in chains or on trains, under constant threat of the bullhook, or ankus—the menacing tool used to control elephants. They are lame from balancing their 8,000-pound frames on tiny tubs and from being confined in cramped spaces, sometimes for days at a time. They are afflicted with tuberculosis and herpes, potentially deadly diseases rare in the wild and linked to captivity."
Do you take your children to the circus? Voice your opinion in the comments below.