Circus faces animal abuse

The Northwest Animal Rights Network (NARN) President Rachel Bjork organized a protest rally on Oct. 4. NARN has been protesting claimed animal rights abuse at the 14 Ringling Bros. Circus shows hosted in Everett and Kent. NARN is a volunteer based organization geared towards ending the exploitation of animals by raising awareness and is endorsed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA.)

“NARN has been around for a long time. We have a lot of people on our email list but also PETA has helped us,” said Bjork. “They send out an email to their supporters. We have a weekly email that gets the word out. A lot of people are on Facebook these days. There are a myriad of ways people have gotten the word out.”

Protesters rally against Ringling Bros.
Protesters rally against Ringling Bros.

Protesters claim animal injuries are covered up by makeup when they perform at shows and whistleblowers yell at the ticket stands that “they’re beating the elephants” when families line up to attend the circus. They handed out multi-colored pamphlets in English and Spanish in order to reach a larger audience. “It’s not our role to bring animals in for entertainment,” said Jackie Woolman, a concerned protester. The pamphlet content accuses the Ringling Bros. of breaching hundreds of USDA violations of the Federal Welfare Act.

PETA concerns revolve around animal abuse and euthanasia as well as a $270,000 fine the Ringling Bros. Circus received from the U.S. Department of agriculture regarding the care and maintenance of the animals.

NARN hosts regular board meetings to strategize their support for animal rights. “I believe in truth and justice,’ explained Bjork, “I think that what happens to these circus animals is horrible. There are two elephants back there and right now they are standing there on concrete. They go in the show, they perform for about seven minutes and then they go back out there and stand on concrete again..”

Bjork also claims that in the circus off-season, the elephants are held captive in paddocks in Florida. “The elephants would not need extensive medical care if they were not treated so badly in the first place,” said Bjork.

Jon Hall and Igor Rudenko helped build and tear down the stage for the Ringling Bros. Circus this season. “Most of [the animals] seemed kind of focused, meditative. They all seemed very mellow,” said Hall. “I didn’t witness any abuse, I saw horses and animals and they were in their stalls.” Rudenko did not know much about the protests until the final circus showing. “It’s just a job for me really,” he said. “I didn’t see any animals getting abused.”

The protest proceeded without major incident. “The protesters were here but there were no problems, no accidents, no citations and no issues or concerns,” reported Community Information Officer Aaron Snell. Protesters were restricted to a zone marked on the sidewalk marked in chalk to allow pedestrians and customers to walk through freely. While harsh words were exchanged between circus staff and protesters, the protesters tried to remain respectful to audience members and staff at the circus. “Sometimes people get a little heated,” said Bjork, “but we try to be nice.”
Students at the college feel concerned with using animals in the entertainment industry. They see it as abuse that animals understand and and believe they should be treated with respect.

“I feel that animals conceal and see violence and understand it and comprehend it to a certain degree,” said Ruby Jean Monique Beaulieu Byron, a concerned, vegetarian Bellevue College student, “I think it is disgusting the way we treat them in regards to animal cruelty They deserve to be treated well. They’re so innocent.”