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  • Ilene Lefland and Julia Slaughter

Opinion: Say no to animals in traveling shows

Updated: Feb 20, 2023

By Ilene Lefland and Julia Slaughter

The “Greatest Show on Earth” has taken a giant step toward actual greatness. After a five year hiatus, the Ringling Brothers Circus recently announced its return to the circuit next year — without animals. Families will be able to enjoy a fun night out with the knowledge and comfort that no animals were exploited for entertainment.

The well-known circus company with roots in Connecticut going back to P.T. Barnum made the decision to leave animal acts out of its lineup for a solid reason — the growing distaste for animals in entertainment among the public has in part led to a marked decline in ticket sales over the years. The numbers speak directly to how people no longer wish to see elephants, tigers, lions and others being forced to perform tricks for laughs.

Unfortunately, the Connecticut General Assembly has not also come to this realization. Once again this year, state lawmakers failed to enact proposed legislation to ban wild and exotic animals from circuses and traveling shows. Similar laws are already in effect in six states and more than 150 local jurisdictions including Bridgeport and Stamford. But without a statewide ban in Connecticut, the practice continues here.

Indeed, the driver to change the antiquated business model for circuses goes far beyond poor ticket sales. With social media and easy access to news from around the country, the reality of these animals’ lives is now clearly before our eyes. Animals in traveling circuses endure long periods in intense confinement, physical and social deprivation, and brutal, violent methods of control. The public can see how animals performing for entertainment suffer terrible living conditions, injuries and abuse while being deprived of everything natural to them.

A 2019 study by the Monmouth University Polling Institute revealed that more than half of

Americans would favor a law to prohibit the use of wild animals in circuses. Moreover, in the same poll, only three in 10 Americans felt that circus animals are well-treated. “There is no question that animal acts are a cruel and unnecessary business,” says animal advocate Karen Laski, a member of the board of Connecticut Votes for Animals, an animal advocacy organization. “Animals can’t be animals and their lives are forever bleak.”

This year’s legislation to ban wild and exotic animals in traveling entertainment acts in Connecticut had 40 legislative cosponsors from both sides of the aisle. But despite bipartisan backing, along with strong support from animal advocates and the public, the bill was never called for debate on the chamber floor. While disappointed, supporters are determined to bring the measure up again next year.

In the meantime, you can use your voice — and your pocketbook — to speak up for animals; say “no” to shows that include animal acts. It clearly makes a difference.

Ilene Lefland is on the board of directors and Julia Slaughter is a volunteer for CT Votes for


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