Pink Slips for Pachyderms?
Latest to the attack against elephants in circuses is the L.A. City council, considering, among bans on porn stars without condoms, and the mere purchase of pets in pet stores, the end to elephants in circuses. This, of course, brings Feld Entertainment furiously to the fore, begging for public support, pleading with the fans, hauling out the experts in its defense. Contact your congressman or woman! Call up a TV station! It can't happen!
Oh, yes it can! Sorry, Feld Family, I feel not one shred of sympathy for your corporate salvation, based on your refusal to have ever told us just how the PETA YouTube of elephant abuse under your care, posted about two or three years ago, was, as you initially claimed, "misleadingly edited?" I WOULD STILL LIKE TO KNOW. Somebody there is now reading this, for I know you follow this blog. Whomever you are, the Feld of Felds or the night doorman, please pass my request up to the front office.
How, tell me how, and I will listen. Until I am satisfied that you have made good on your claim, I don't give a wit what happens to your traveling fell-good menagerie. Why? You owe it to the circus industry to come clean. You draw the most of the attention. You earn millions while others settle for pennies, but your cynically spun example affects them all. You claim to treat your animals with exemplary respect, and yet YouTube paints a different picture: Elephants being slapped by bull hooks for no apparent reason (or, might it be, to keep them in a state of fear?). Elephants being callously cursed at for no apparent reason at all. Is this what you stand for?
Short of explaining your evident misdeeds, you place yourself down among the bottom feeder big tops. Among the Gardens and the Davenports. You can only spin so far before public opinion turns. And it seems surely to be turning slowly, not to your ring -- but away.
To repeat, to whomever you are at Feld Entertainment reading this blog: Your or your employer's actions invariably effect the plight of all circuses around the world.
L.A. TO U.K
Now, over across the Atlantic to what's left of the circus that the Brits invented. From journalist and author Douglas McPherson (Circus Mania) comes word that circus owner Bobby Roberts was convicted last week for "keeping Britain's last circus elephant chained to the ground and allowing a [Romanian] groom to beat her while unsupervised at winter quarters." So sad, the evidence of misbehavior (how polite of me) piles up like rotting dung.
BBC aired a documentary last week in prime time in the east of England, "The Last Circus Elephants." According to McPherson, who himself appeared on the program, "all in all, I'd say the circus came off pretty well."
Roberts came out okay. Despite a vicious front page press campaign against the circus, partly propagated by Animal Defenders International (ADI), "the vet said, 'Hats off to Bobby - to get an elephant to that age (58) in such good condition he had to be doing something right'."
Oh, what it was once like over there. Heck, what once it was like over here. Reports Douglas, "There was some excellent archival footage from the glory days of the British big top in the 1950s and 60s - vast tents packed to the rafters and rings heaving with polar bears, elephants, lions and chimps."
A different people, a different circus: Chipperfields in the sixties
Roberts' sentence was a conditional discharge. No fine. No court fees. Said the Judge, the beleaguered circus owner had "suffered enough from the adverse press publicity," and had displayed during most of his 70 years an "exemplary" record of taking care of his animals. On the BBC doc, Roberts' wife was "in tears" describing e-mail threats to "shoot Bobby and kidnap their children."
Long heavy sigh. I have a sliver of cheer with which to counter the mounting gloom. We're going minimal here. Lower your expectations. We're not at Monte Carlo. We're under a cozy little tent full of nice people eager to put on a show.
Big Top Goes Chicken!
Circus Report, of course, never sees a circus it doesn't like, but sometimes something pops out, to the good or not, that grabs my fancy. In reviewing the Zoppe Family Circus, a show Herb Ueckert seems to adore as much as Ernest Albrecht adores Big Apple Circus, this did it:
During the dog act, "Then two chickens -- yes, real chickens-- delighted the audience by walking on a revolving apparatus."
Okay, so it's not the long mount. Or Gunther Gebel Williams shouting out mystical commands. Or Cirque du Soleil on steroids. " But ... something about that barnyard image charmed the kid in me, and I'm reaching for a kind of naive satisfaction. Getting set, am I?, to find magic in more humble rings. If I could only erase from my stubborn brain images of Brunn, and Gold, the Wallendas (when they were the Wallendas), Klauser's Bears, Peggy and Mac MacDonalds wondrous performing elephants, starring Baby Opal.
Memo to the Brits: Please tell your elephants for me -- good night, good luck, and sweet sawdust dreams.
The one and only Opal with Polack Bros. Circus, 1955