Introducing Mickey, the latest addition to my boyfriends family. Mickey is a 3.5-month-old Eclectus parrot, with a love for food and a passion for chirping at early hours of the morning.
Mickey has now turned into the third son of the household, when mumma goes shopping she constantly repeats “gotta get this for my baby boy, only the fresh and best fruits and seeds.” When I asked which son she was talking about, she looked at me puzzled and replied, “Mickey.”
Isn’t it odd that we tend to interact with animals as if they are humans? Feeding them ‘human food’, speaking them and expecting them to respond, teaching them to talk and sit, and in extreme cases dress them up in little outfits, this can be referred to as anthropomorphism. Anthropomorphism is “ascribing human characteristics to nonhuman things.” “Neuroscience research has shown that similar brain regions are involved when we think about the behavior of both humans and of nonhuman entities, suggesting that anthropomorphism may be using similar processes as those used for thinking about other people.”
However, it is to be considered that through anthropomorphism there are implications that can arise. Such implications can be seen through thinking an animal, for instance, has similar moral and ‘caring’ consideration like humans, while also being held accountable for their actions – they became deserving of an award or punishment.
Bright lights, lavish costumes, acrobats and the cutest animals jumping through rings of fire and submitting to their ring leader. All sounds like a show worth watching.
However, the circus is the main domain for animal cruelty. Trainers use animal cruelty methods to train animals, which are kept in cramped and confined spaces especially when travelling from town to town.
A Life Far Removed From Home
The nature of the circus is travelling from city to city, therefore supplying animals with an inadequate supply of the main supplies such as water, food and veterinary care. Naturally circus animals have a nature of constant activity, however living a life in the circus forces them to be stored in confined areas and are permitted to leave their cages only when performing. For example, elephants are kept in “leg shackles that prevent them from taking more than one step in any direction. The minimum requirements of the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA)are routinely ignored.” When circuses are not in motion, animals are subjected to travelling in barn stalls or trucks for long periods of times, this often causes physical and psychological effects on the animals. These effects can be identified through unnatural forms of behaviours such as head-bobbing, pacing and swaying.
Beaten Into Submission
Physical punishment is considered to be a “standard training method”, where animals are beaten, shocked etc. constantly to make them perform. However, in some cases, the animals may be drugged making them
“manageable“, also surgically remove the teeth and claws of others.
Often as a result of stress, pressure and abuse, the animals can snap in retaliation. An example of this is Flora the elephant, who had been previously forced to perform in a circus and when transferred to Miami Zoo attacked a zookeeper.
Most recently, a case of animal cruelty and anthropomorphic abuse has been shut down. May of 2016 Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced the final retirement of their herd of elephants at Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida. It is said that the retirement marked “the end of an era for the elephants”. This comes as a result of animal rights groups critiquing and suing the company for their treatment of animals.
As of January of this year, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus formally announced their decision to remove elephants from their shows has led to the closure of the 146-year-old company. This has come about from the pressure of animal rights group which has instantly affected their ticket sales.
The retirement of the company comes from the backlash of animal activist, former Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus employee Archele Hundley spoke to PETA about witnessing elephant abuse. “I saw handlers deliver a beating … for 30 minutes. She was covered with bloody wounds. I’ll never forget her agonizing screams,” says Hundley. “Please, never take your children to a Ringling Bros. circus.”
Anthropomorphism has desensitised its audiences. It is common that we are blinded by their apparent abilities to act on command and depict human-like responses. We must consider the implications behind their ‘talents’. We aren’t whipped each time we refuse a command, so why should they be?
- Anon, (2017). In: 1st ed. [online] Available at: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anthropomorphic [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
- Nauert, R. (2015). Why Do We Anthropomorphize? | Psych Central News. [online] Psych Central News. Available at: https://psychcentral.com/news/2010/03/01/why-do-we-anthropomorphize/11766.html [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
- PETA. (2017). About PETA. [online] Available at: http://www.peta.org/about-peta/ [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
- PETA. (2017). Circuses: Three Rings of Abuse. [online] Available at: http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-in-entertainment/animals-used-entertainment-factsheets/circuses-three-rings-abuse/ [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
- FUCHS, C. (2011). ‘One Lucky Elephant’: She Wasnt Good About Just Being Alone. [online] PopMatters. Available at: http://www.popmatters.com/review/142578-one-lucky-elephant/ [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
- Faith Karimi, C. (2016). Ringling Bros. elephants perform last show. [online] CNN. Available at: http://edition.cnn.com/2016/05/01/us/ringling-bros-elephants-last-show/ [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
- PETA. (2017). Former Ringling Bros. Employee Speaks Out Against Abuse. [online] Available at: http://www.peta.org/features/former-ringling-bros-employee-speaks-abuse/ [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].