Throwing my hat into the ring to save the circus |

Throwing my hat into the ring to save the circus

Andrew Gmerek

The photographs are always shot in black and white to add drama to the image.

The subjects of the pictures – in this case animals – always appear pitiful, helpless, lost and abused as they look out from between filthy bars at the injustice of the world around them.

Even though these images – processed and distributed by animal rights groups everywhere – would melt the heart of an iceberg on Pluto, when they are linked to, and used against, the modern-day circus they fall into the category of fiction.

I bring this up because there is currently a measure on the November ballot that would ban the exhibition of wild or exotic animals for public entertainment or amusement in Denver.

This measure is aimed at and effectively bans the traditional circus.

That’s right folks; no more “Step right up and see “em” and “Ladies and gentlemen. Boys and girls. Children of all ages. Welcome to the Greatest Show on Earth.”

The catalyst for this new law comes in the form of a 15-year-old, do-gooder named Heather Herman who claims she did lots of research on the subject of animal cruelty in the modern-day circus before she gathered the more than 6,000 signatures necessary to get a petition on the November ballot.

The way the law is written, however, leads me to believe that Herman is just an unfortunate pawn for another radical animal right’s group hell bent on turning us all into vegetarians.

I know this because the measure doesn’t battle anyone with a political power base in Colorado.

Currently the measure exempts Ocean Journey, the Denver Zoo and the National Western Stock Show, all organizations with enough clout to stop it in its tracks.

So instead of constructing an all-inclusive measure, the PETA-like groupies turned a 15-year-old girl on organizations that have almost no political power and therefore no protection. Circuses.

I just wonder if Herman, being a ninth-grader, ever considered the repercussions of her meddling in other people’s lives and businesses?

I doubt she took into account the thousands of people she might put out of work if this kind of measure spreads across the country.

I wonder if she even considered the fate of the thousands of animals that are under the care of organizations like Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, not only in its three traveling shows but also at its training facility and nature preserve.

If the circus can’t perform and make money, then the animals, like the people, don’t eat.

And what about charitable organizations like the Shriners that raise thousands of dollars through its circus to support hospitals? I guess all those children that might have had free medical care will now have to ante up because of Herman’s crusade to save animals that don’t really need to be saved.

Trust me on this; circus animals today are some of the best cared for animals in the animal kingdom. They have to be with all the animal rights groups trying to shut down what’s left of this once popular tradition. Modern-day circus owners can’t afford even a smidgen of bad publicity.

But that’s not the only reason why the animals are treated so well. The performers and handlers livelihoods depend on their animals being happy, healthy and content, and this is a big motivation for anyone.

Throw in the fact that animals are considered family in a circus and there is nothing to worry about.

Having spent some time with circus people – I once even subscribed to the weekly circus newspaper – I’ve seen firsthand just how they treat their charges, and I can honestly say they attend to their animals better than 50 percent of the human population cares for their children.

In a circus the elephant, dog, bird, seal and bear performers come first. Period.

If Herman had spent a little more time in “unbiased” research she might have focused her youthful energy lobbying for reforms like health care or the environment. Reforms that could make a difference in all our lives.

Andrew Gmerek writes a Friday column for the Summit Daily News. He can be reached at

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