PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) – Tonight the big top opens up at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh and it will be greeted by members of PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
PETA is standing against the use of animals for entertainment, they say it’s not only harmful to the animal, but to the audience as well.
PETA Spokesperson Katie Arth says animals in circuses are often abused by their trainers — and although it may not be taking place during the performance, it is behind the scenes during training.
Arth continued, saying that the animals are made to perform using fear and intimidation techniques. She claims methods like bull-hooks electric prods and whips are used to make the animal perform.
Arth cites an example where some elephants escaped in St. Louis, saying that even though there wasn’t a threat to the animals, loud noises and shouting alone was enough to bother them. She says it’s a perfect example of why they shouldn’t be made to perform.
“This is what the circus objects these animals too, elephants naturally in the wild would walk up to 30 miles a day through spaces where they’re not surrounded by bright lights and loud sounds,” said Arth. “And these animals ran out of being frightened by a sound and this isn’t the first time this kind of thing has happened.”
This is why she says she want’s circuses to have animal-free performances.
However, Shriner Circus organizers say none of these techniques are used in their circus and that they have the utmost care for their animals.
Paul Leavy, Circus Chairman for the Shriners in Pittsburgh, says they’ve been dealing with this since he started 25 years ago. He adds that this year the Pittsburgh circus is celebrating its 65th anniversary and have never had a citation.
Leavy says that the USDA recently visited their facility to examine the overall health and wellness of the animals and facility. He explains that all the food is specialty made for their animals, and the elephants even take a bath in special soap and have their nails trimmed.
“Once again, in this day and age with federal, state and local laws you have to be crazy to try and violate anything or do anything,” said Leavy. “It just doesn’t make sense, we’re for animal rights, we’re for, we support animal welfare and that’s why we don’t hurt the animals.”
The Shrine Circus also sent KDKA an “Animal Care Letter” saying in part: “The Shrine Circus approaches the subject of animal rights very seriously. Of course, we always want what is best for our animals. We will not yield to the agenda of a specific “animal rights” organization in Pittsburgh that has targeted any entertainment venue, media sponsor and corporate sponsor that supports animals in a performance.”