Protesters against circus at Rabobank
Thousands of patrons attended the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus show, “Dragons,” for its four-day show residence at the Rabobank Arena in downtown Bakersfield, but not everyone considered it to be the greatest show on earth.
Equipped with signs, some with graphic photos of alleged animal abuse, activists from the Bakersfield Alliance for Animals protested one hour before each show outside of the Rabobank Arena and urged circus goers to take their money elsewhere.
The group has long opposed Ringling’s use of animals in its shows, disputing that both the training methods used by the circus and the manner wherein animals are housed and transported between shows amount to cruelty.
“Animals in traveling circuses are forced to endure severe confinement, physical and social deprivation, long arduous journeys, brutal training and control methods, physical violence and mental suffering,” said Stacey Augustson, BAA group affiliate.
She adds that the animals’ needs are not taken into consideration.
“Tigers and lions are in cages that are so small that their only requirement is that they have to be able to stand up and turn around. The circus has also been cited for forcing ailing arthritic elephants to perform.”
Last year, Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus, agreed to pay a $275,000 fine to settle allegations that it violated federal animal-welfare laws in its handling of elephants, tigers, zebras and other exotic animals.
Two videographers were on sight documenting the demonstration. They said they were contracted by “corporate structure” while pointing toward Rabobank Arena.
Ashley Smith, director of corporate communications for Feld Entertainment, provided Ringling Bros. perspective.
“At Ringling Bros., we take great pride in our animals – their well-being, care, and on-going needs,” she said. “Our animal care programs rival the best in the world, and we have the largest sustainable herd of Asian elephants in the Western Hemisphere. Millions of people come to our shows each year and see that our animals are thriving in our care.”
She continued, ” Our elephants serve as ambassadors for their species in the wild, where they are highly endangered. Caring for our animals is a top priority.”
The 20-strong group received a generous amount of supportive honks and thumbs up from passing motorists at the busy intersection of Truxtun Avenue and N Street.
Alternatively, others didn’t appreciate the signs and graphic photographs.
“Are these people for real?” said Celina Gallardo, while waiting in line to enter the arena.
“The circus is a lot of fun, and these people are just out here to ruin the mood.”
Courtney Clerico, an animal rights activist who helped organized the protest, said although she can’t turn everyone away, little victories can make a major difference.
“If a kid or adult sees the pictures and starts to realize ‘hey, this may not be the best thing,’ then we’re already winning.”
Clerico remains hopeful that one day Ringling Bros. will cease to exist.
“They used to come out here every few years and now they are having to come back every single year, because more and more communities are banning the circus.
“I hope Bakersfield bans it one day as well,” she said.