their eyes got no soul

Last week was a busy one and I constantly felt like I was rushing to and from the apartment, 5-10 minutes behind where I wanted to be. My goal was to get through the hour, the day, the week and complete the many tasks that were looming on my “to do” list.

Although I was pretty focused, I couldn’t help but notice the large canvas tent that popped up across the street in the parking lot adjacent to the building, “Soul Circus” was painted across the big top, and the nomad structure swayed in the November breeze.

The site of this made my stomach drop. I hate circuses. It’s impossible for me to see beyond the cruel conditions that the animals are kept in to garner any sort of enjoyment or entertainment from the show. The thought of wild animals being crammed into cages and transported from city to small town in less than ideal living conditions truly sickens me.  Every day I’d pass by the tent, and every day I’d feel that same tightening in the pit of my stomach. Not once did I see the animals outside being exercised. Not once did were they out for any other reason than to make a buck for the promoters during the show.

My feelings of dread were confirmed by a friend in the apartment who went to one of the shows. She told me she immediately thought of me because she knew how upset I’d be if I had gone (we hadn’t actually discussed my POV on the subject, but I guess my reputation for animal activism makes this fact pretty apparent). My friend, who never really thought much on the subject, said she could not get over the fear and flinching of the tigers when the lion tamer cracked his whip, and was upset by the sadness that seemed to swell in the elephants’ eyes.

“I know that’s weird to say. I mean, I don’t even know what a sad elephant looks like…” she said.

“Oh, I think it sounds like you do…”

I understand that there are many different opinions on how animals should be treated and what their role in our lives is supposed to be.  While shelters are filled with animals who have been abused, neglected, and abandoned, other industries thrive on the extreme pampering that we give our pets–from spas, to designer treats, toys, and clothing, to jeweled collars.

Despite popular belief, I find my beliefs on the proper treatment of animals to be moderate. Although I love and respect my animals, I do not dress them up or pamper them with luxuries I cannot afford. But I do think that all life–human or other–needs to be valued, respected, and honored. Although I don’t eat meat, I don’t take issue with humans who do–I simply wish the methods to killing animals for food were more humane. I don’t agree with factory farms and slaughterhouses. I don’t believe any animal should only know life in a 2-by-2 cage, even if its ultimate fate is to be basted and roasted for someone’s dinner.

And although it can be argued that keeping pets is a form of self-indulgence, I don’t believe that animals should be used as a basis of sport or entertainment, unless they’re a part of agri-tourism and are living on a farm where they have plenty of land to roam. Obviously dog and cockfighting is inhumane, but circuses–and depending on the facility–some zoos, are just as upsetting.

I would truly love to hear some other points of view on this though, because I often wonder what the opinions/thoughts are of someone who sees this topic differently. I would like to understand/know how other people feel about this/what their opinion is/where they consider the line of cruelty to lie and what they believe to be animals’ rights.

One thought on “their eyes got no soul

  1. Every one has his limits. I’m not a vegetarian, but I stopped eating veal in my teens when I found out how the calves are “tenderized”. But Steinbeck summed up so much about animals in reference to his dog, Charley. He said(paraphrasing)a dog would rather be treated as a first class dog than as a second-class human. (I love the way Cesar Milan dinstinguishes between “dod lovers” and “dog people,” by the way.) Though Steinbeck was referencing the crazy dog lovers, I think you can extend that past pet ownership. If you can figure out what it means to be a (insert animal name here) and you take away those parametrers, you are no longer treating it as a first-class (whatever animal). First-class lions don’t stand on painted barrels and growl on command.

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