Part Two in a Series, Is It Time to Retire the Circus Elephants?
The big cage is back in Britain, tanks to a Chipperfield most worthy of respect
Like emerging from a dark barn of animal abuse hell into the sunshine of a remarkably humane circus backyard, that's how I felt as I watched the six videos put out so far by the young Thomas Chippefield titled
Circus Lion Training Video Diary. They show two lions, the brothers Tsavo and Assegai, being taught several of the tricks we often see and, I suppose, take for granted.
These videos are not slick or professional. Not garnished with a charming sheen or a no-questioning pro-circus sycophancy. They were made by a stationary camera, they look home made, which gives them a more authentic air. Reassuring, unpolished evidence that, yes, circus animals can be treated with respect, patience, kindness, and that they can be taught to do remarkable things in the most fundamentally humane one-step-at-a-time manner. I've never totally doubted this, but there is much most of us, myself included, do not know.
I urge you to take a look. Here is your link:
Among comments posted on the You Tube revelation:, this from Scorpwas!, 6 months ago:
"This this video is amazing. I totally respect the hard work what it takes to train these animals. These cats perform their tricks with enjoyment and it looks like it makes them healthier and more enriched as Lions. Keep doing what you love and never stop or question whatever you do because someone doesn't agree with it. I admire Circus people and wish your act was in the UK! Keep up the fantastic work"
This is what we need more of. Much more of. This is the future, if there is to be a future.
If the horrific Tim Frisco C&B video has done more damage than anything else (which it likely has) to turn people off to watching circus animals of any stripe perform, these Chipperfield You Tubes should go a long long way towards regaining the public's confidence. They demonstrate without fanfare or verbal gild how very possible it is to train an animal to perform wondrous feats without treating it like a doomed slave and nearly torturing it to death. Without, in fact, abusing it at all.
My eyes were opened, my heart warmed. And it all makes sense. How a lion (or tiger, I assume) can be gently coaxed by the sight or promise of something to eat to merely, for example, stand up in order to reach the tasty prize. Stand up not under pressure, but under its own ability to contort its body in order to reach a desired goal. How much like humans they are! (No, I'm not quite as naive as I sound, although I am naive, as you will see in a future post when I ask questions such as, "when an elephant screams, does that always mean it is in pain? Or might it merely be resisting something that is not necessarily itself painful?)
People of PETA and circus skeptics on the fence: YOU should take a look. YOU should face another kind of music that exists side by side with those terrible images that have been filmed showing apparent animal abuse.
The Chippefield You Tubes all makes sense. I will never again view a big cage act the same way. I will appreciate both trainer and beast much more. I will recall all the time they must spend together, the one coaxing the other into positions and movements through rewards and good words in order to achieve a magical result.
Thanks to London author and critic Douglas McPherson (see his Circus Mania Blog, linkable to your right), who brought this to my attention. McPherson is carefully and constructively following developments across the Big Pond. Under approval of the British government, the cats of Chipefield are performing again on English soil. The Brits, who gave us the modern day circus, may be the ones who will save it.
I'm waiting for the next page in the Chipperfield. Diary, to see how Tsavo and Assegai, who are already doing lay-overs and jumps, can finally stand on their hind legs without the rest bars upon which they currently rely.
For you who have "issues" with performing animals in the circus, these videos should at least partially restore your faith in the humanity of the big top 's best and certainly most civilized trainers. There are many of them, I have no doubt.
Thank you, Thomas Chipperfield!
Next here on the platform: Can the same humane techniques, as demonstrated by Mr. Chipperfield, be used to get an elephant to stand on its head? You may weight in on the question now, if you wish!
Thanks to Jack Ryan for additional input