Dropping the Curtain on Traveling Circuses
Congressman Jim Moran, (D-Virginia) introduced the “Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act” (TEAPA) to restrict the use of exotic, non-domestic animals touring with circuses. Flanked by Bob Barker and Jorja Fox (CSI) Congressman Moran described the unhappy plight of animals forced to work in traveling circuses.
Animals don't magically appear at theaters, festivals, and fairs. They spend most of their time cooped up and chained in cages, while traveling for hours in trains, trucks and the like. When they are not performing or rehearsing, they are also confined, often in minimal spaces for efficiency, ease of transport and cost concerns. When they are "on", they are performing unnatural acts for public entertainment. These animals are stressed, ill-used, and, as such develop health and behavioral issues often resulting in more confining and training "corrections".
This bill would amend the Federal Animal Welfare Act by prohibiting the use of an exotic or wild animal in an animal act, if, "during the 15-day period preceding such participation, such animal was traveling in a mobile housing facility". This language effectively prohibits a traveling circus or exhibit from doing a sequence of short stays which are book-ended by long and grueling travel intervals. The result would be a major overhaul in the business models of large outfits like Ringling Brothers, and, in some cases the actual end of smaller companies as it would require additional financing for personnel and accommodations attendant to longer stays.
The recent collapse of a circus elephant, Sarah, and pressure brought by animal welfare organizations has forced the spotlight to shine on the non-public side of circus organizations. The bill is opposed by Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Brothers Circus, who maintains that the bill is focusing on a false premise that caring for and transporting circus animals is contradictory to sound animal husbandry.
Circuses, like Cirque Du Soleil, that do not employ animals, are extremely popular, and support the proposition that there is more to entertainment than a dancing bear.