Do Circuses Need Animals?

By Heather Moore

The recently defeated proposal in Denver to ban circuses that use "wild or exotic animals," such as lions, tigers and elephants, from performing in that city was an important first step in exposing the cruel training and intense confinement that brings so much misery to animals. Just a few days before the vote, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus destroyed an 8-month-old elephant, named Riccardo, who fell off a 19-inch-high circus pedestal and fractured his two hind legs during what People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) suspects was a training exercise.

Riccardo is the third baby elephant to die at Ringling's hands in recent years. His mother, Shirley, was bred by Ringling Bros. when she was still a child herself at only seven- years old. She was not physically or emotionally ready to care for a baby. In the wild, elephants don't even begin mating until age 18. Studies show that captive elephants who breed before age 12 have shorter life spans.

Riccardo's death came on the heels of the July 13th death of Clyde, a two-year-old lion who apparently suffered from heatstroke and dehydration while traveling with Ringling Bros. in a poorly ventilated boxcar through the Mojave Desert where temperatures reached a scorching 109

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