The last time I went to the circus I must have been 11 or 12. It was one of those brand-name circus that was very proud of displaying an enormous number of exotic animals. And even more proud of exhibiting a mini zoo to entertain the visitors.
Mum and Dad took Sis and I to see the animals and it was one of those experiences one will never forget. I still remember the acid smell of urine and I can still hear the roar and growl of very upset animals confined to miniscule cages in which there was hardly any space for their bodies. Mum and Dad were always like this and they would usually give us lessons in life that we would not forget. This was precisely one of those.
After seeing the animals Sis and I were very silent and to this day I still don't remember the circus show. All I can remember of that afternoon was the animals in pain. Now, because it's the holiday season, there are circus tents everywhere and posters announcing "Bengal Tigers" and "Nile Hippopotamus" and all exotic animals we can imagine. One of the circus even has crocodiles! What is worse is the emphasis on how wild and ferocious the animals are that will have to be tamed by humans. And humans will fight the dangerous beasts and win (to the applause of the crowds).
Of course humans will win the fight! We are talking about tired, underfed, sick, depressed animals. Animals abused by all tortures possible. Exposed to extreme weather, forced to live in confinement, obliged to travel long hours, taught by brute force and punishment things that they would never do in the wild, humilliated with each show.
Rational creatures we are. So rational and civilized that we pay to watch shows of violence just like the Romans did and we, in this civilized rationality, consider the Romans barbarians. And what surprises me even more is that those of us that raise a voice in favour of the rights of animals are seen like strange people and crazy activists. In fact, the only time I almost went to jail was when I was in an Arab country trying to stop four men that were kicking and hitting a dying donkey that had simply refused to walk another step.
A pile of skin and bones, overburdened and obviously malnourished I saw the donkey collapse right in front of me. Imediately those men started to kick and beat the animal and it was so tired and sick it just didn't move. It didn't even make any sound. It didn't try to defend itself. It was as if all he wanted was to die and put a definitive end to its suffering. I couldn't take it.
I grabbed the very few words I know in Arabic and the thousands I know in English and went straight at the men. I don't remember much else because I was seeing red. I think I pulled one of them by the arm, something like that, but I'm not sure. I remember a crowd gathered. I remember my husband trying to stop me and talking sense to me because we were alone and very far from protection. In the end, he managed to take me out of there before the police came.
He was, most naturally, furious at me. I was furious at the men and my heart was full of immense sympathy for the donkey, so much I could feel physical pain. I remember looking back and seeing the crowd and the men in their dirty djellabahs gesticulating in the air and very angry. I didn't help the donkey I know, but I didn't stay still, I didn't turn a blind eye and did nothing.
With the circus it's the same. I don't contribute in any way to the show and if ever I have kids, they surely are not going to the circus with mom.
It's more than time animals should be banned from the circus activities. It's slavery. It's cruelty. It's abuse. It's injustice. It's horror. It's a manifestation of our own irrationality.