Hunger Strike Against the Circus
by Amanda Flynn
On Wednesday, a group of more than two dozen animal rights activists assembled outside the Mellon Arena to protest the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus?s treatment of their performing animals. Seven students involved in the protest also participated in a hunger strike. The hunger strike, which lasted three days, brought together members of activist group Voices for Animals as well as University of Pittsburgh, Chatham College, and Carnegie Mellon University students. Each of the seven students represented a particular Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus animal that had recently died.
Candice Zawoiski, a member of the Voices for Animals group, was one of the seven activists who participated in the hunger strike. Zawoiski commented that the hunger strike ?was a bit uncomfortable and left me hungry, but it was nothing compared to the misery that the [circus] animals endure for a lifetime.?
Zawoiski claimed that Voices for Animals launched the hunger strike ?in order to raise awareness about the neglect and outright abuse? that the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus animals are put through.
P.J. McKowsky, a member of the Voices for Animals group who also participated in the hunger strike, echoed Zawoiski?s comments about the minor discomfort the hunger strikers endured as compared to the reported pain of the circus animals. McKowsky added that the hunger strike gave the participants ?time to reflect? about what the animals suffer when ?so much of what is good and natural to them? is taken away in captivity.
Michael Croland, the president of Voices for Animals at Carnegie Mellon and a senior English major, was among the participants in the protest outside the Mellon Arena.
Croland, who received an internship at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) last year, says, ?The protests got many people to realize the inherent suffering Ringling animals go through. These animals are ripped from their families and natural habitats, beaten until they learn absurd tricks, and forced to perform against veterinarians? advice. They are deprived of any sense of freedom, much like VFA activists were deprived of food. However, a key difference is that Ringling animals have to endure a full lifetime of misery, not just three days.?
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Company have come under fire recently for their failure to meet the minimum requirements as outlined by the Animal Welfare Act.
The Animal Welfare Act, first enacted August 24, 1966, provides explicit guidelines for housing facilities, exercise, feeding, watering, care in transit, and many other facets of animal care.
According to PETA, Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus Company have been responsible for the deaths of nine circus animals since 2001. The most recent death occurred on July 13 when a lion named Clyde died due to dehydration and heatstroke.
In May of this year an oncoming train in Dayton, Ohio, hit two horses as they were being delivered to the circus. Other deaths within the last three years have involved two Bengal tigers and four elephants.
The activists are hopeful that their efforts to raise awareness will result in better animal care, especially for elephants, which have the longest lifetime of all the other circus animals and therefore may be subjected to the longest periods of neglect.
Editor?s Note: Michael Croland is a former contributer to The Tartan as writer and editor.