Editorial: Stronger laws needed for animals

For more than 130 years, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has been entertaining people of all ages. However, some groups, such as Florida Voices for Animals and Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, are not amused at all by the company. These groups accuse the circus of reaping profits from the abuse and mistreatment of animals.

While there are laws prohibiting such maltreatments, there are no specific codes of laws that delineate working hours and other specifics. Covered items include living conditions and quarters, but perhaps something akin to child labor laws may be needed to properly regulate and deter violations of animal rights.

For years, animal activists have protested circuses in many ways, ranging from pamphlets to flyers to signs to even dressing up in animal suits and being mock-whipped by faux ringleaders to show the supposed cruelty exhibited by circus owners. Circuses are often fined for minor violations, and some have been levied penalties in the past for maltreatment of animals. But these are all ineffective ways of bringing about change.

Instead, a specific code of rules and guidelines for working animals might benefit both circuses and activists. People who have extraordinary talents exhibit them and hone them; animals should be given the same opportunity. Many animals seem to enjoy performing and showing off their talents and should be allowed to do so, but in an environment that is not hostile or detrimental to their health. For instance, animals could have contracts that establish “wages” (or food), and proper care, housing space and other amenities that animal activists think would make circuses humane and fair.

It has been proven that animals have feelings and understand the difference between pain and pleasure – it is not too much to ask that humans give them the benefit of fair and humane laws that protect them from mistreatment.