About 10 protesters were outside the Kelly Miller Circus in Penacook on July 4, protesting the treatment of circus animals.
Barbara Bonsignore and Carol Woods stood on Fisherville Road holding signs and waving to patrons of the circus and people traveling on one of Concord’s main thoroughfares, attempting to educate others about conditions that they believe are deplorable inside America’s circus business.
“If these animals perform out of love, then why do you have to have bull hooks and whips?,” asked Bonsignore of Concord. “They always have them because they don’t perform out of love.”
Bonsignore explained that despite claims by circus owners that they treat their animals humanely, most don’t. As well, in order to get into a state where they can perform tricks, the animals must have their wills and spirits broken. In the case of elephants and tigers, they are very “dominant animals,” according to Bonsignore. In order to perform the tricks, the animals have to be unnaturally contained and tamed.
“They take baby elephants and they pull them end-to-end, until they are totally stretched out,” she said, “and then, they beat the hell out of them.”
Bonsignore said trainers use electric shocks on the elephants and then chain them down until they become docile. She said that elephants have higher family hierarches and need to be around their own family members in order to live happily. Bonsignore also claimed that elephants develop foot ailments from walking on tar and concrete surfaces. They are also chained at night in order to keep them in place, she said.
“People will say that they’re fed,” Bonsignore said. “Sure they’re fed … but it’s like putting you in a closet. I feed you, I clothe you, but I isolate you from your family and that’s your whole life.”
Both Bonsignore and Woods commended wildlife animal reserves and parks where children and families could see the animals in as close to a natural habitat as possible. There are now performing animal welfare societies set up in different parts of the country, Bonsignore said, to take the former performing animals in.
“If kids want to see animals, they can see them having a normal life,” Woods said.