Circus raises questions about animal acts

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The Culpepper & Meriweather Circus is making the rounds in the Northwest, having visited Cle Elum and Kittitas this past week. Soap Lake was their stop in Grant County last night. Organizers tout the event as a one-ring, big top circus that’s been showcased on National Geographic Explorer’s TV series, Entertainment Tonight, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune and Arizona Highways Magazine.

Family memories lasting a lifetime can be created, circus organizers state. The 90-minute traveling show visits more than 200 towns in 17 states. The circus’s reach is big and wide.

We’re all for bringing big events to town, especially in our rural area that can be lacking in big-city entertainment. It’s always nice to have more choices for fun family outings.

We did notice that Culpepper & Merriweather added an animal education piece to the show to “address topics such as hygiene, grooming and the veterinary care all our animals receive,” according to a prepared statement from the circus. This is a good sign, but doesn’t completely address the issue.

In nearby Kittitas County, a local veterinarian recently spoke at a county commission meeting about her concerns with circuses, according to a Ellensburg Daily Record article. Circuses are closing throughout the U.S., she said during the meeting where an event permit was approved for the circus to operate outside Cle Elum city limits.

The Cle Elum City Council had denied the event a permit to operate inside city limits by because of worries about traffic, parking, animal safety and guest safety.

From our standpoint, many people in our area enjoy animal acts and performances probably because of the popularity of the annual rodeo. We also understand that the circus and rodeo are vastly different events with different types of animals.

The performances with domesticated species of animals, such as horses and cattle, are part of our rodeo tradition and relatively harmless. A rodeo is basically showing off work skills and started out as a competition to show how well cowboys did their jobs.

No one’s life’s work is holding off lions with a chair. Educational or not, maybe it’s time to retire the animal acts for the circus.

— Editorial Board

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