Think about products consumers buy that are made from animals in grave danger of extinction. There are the ivory keys of a grand piano from an Asian Elephant. Then there’s the Burmese Python designer handbag being toted around on Park Avenue. How could you overlook the Bengal Tiger skin rug? It’s undeniable that seeing animals in their natural habitat is an utterly spectacular sight, but with illegal poaching, species endangerment, and consumer necessity, it’s no longer a safe environment for animal populations in rapid decline. Animal franchises such as circuses, SeaWorld, carriage industries, and so on protect animals from external harm while allowing them to participate in the lives of humans.
For many kids, seeing animals in zoos, circuses, or other franchises, may be their only opportunity to see an animal in the flesh. According to the National Library of Medicine, animal to human interaction leads to positive social effects such as a better understanding of respect, trust, empathy, aggression, and positive mood. Another important aspect is the history humans have with specific organizations. The concept of circuses originated in Ancient Rome as a source of entertainment, social gathering, and for the poor- sustainability. Although the times have clearly changed since then, the fascination of circuses lives on and has become somewhat of a global tradition for many. On a very diverse planet, the captivation and charm animal exposure provides humans with has undeniable benefits. As The Night Circus author, Erin Morgenstern says, “Something about the circus stirs [peoples] souls, and they ache for it when it is absent.”
Along with the joy animal franchise brings to humans, animals experience similar benefits. Many of the performing animals are currently endangered. According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, African and Asian Elephants are being slaughtered at an unprecedented rate due to the demand for ivory. Ringling Brothers has therefore created their Center for Elephant Conservation. With over 144 years of experience, the conservancy center has already announced the birth of 26 calves. The conservancy provides the elephants with a life full of stimulating activities, nutritious meals, unlimited veterinary attention, and most importantly, a clean, safe home away from internal and external threats the elephants would experience in their natural habitats
Similarly with the Central Park horse carriages, these horses are protected by the industry. Since the Industrial Revolution, the horse has been quickly replaced by machine, so the need for horsepower has decreased rapidly over the past century. The Central Park horses are all draft horses which means they are large and strong, and if not used in the carriage industry, they are the last to be adopted and the first to be sent to slaughter. Currently, horses are now an overpopulated species, so there are limited spaces left for them. The horses participating in carriage industries are also protected by over 144 pages of rights and regulations, given all the basic necessities and more, along with 5 week country vacations. Industries, franchises, and conservations allow animals to live happy and productive lives in an urban setting.
Although these organizations are beneficial for us all, there are still many controversies regarding their ethics. SeaWorld recently experienced backlash when an exposé documentary, Blackfish, was released depicting their practices in a negative light. SeaWorld public representatives dismissed it as a "shamefully dishonest, deliberately misleading and scientifically inaccurate" film. Similarly, Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus dealt with elephant controversies when PETA leaked a video in 2009 claiming mistreatment. After a 6-month investigation with 35 inspections, the claims were proved false. Now, NYC mayor, Bill De Blasio and PETA are attacking the horse carriage industry because of a picture being passed around from 1991, neglecting to mention the changes to the law since then. The question then arises, why would a trainer, an owner, or anyone involved in animal franchises hurt or mistreat their animals if their livelihood depends on them?
Whether it is horses, elephants or seals, animals and humans live a better quality of life when interdependent on one another. Each gains from the other and in the process humans become more “human” by learning to respect and cherish animals. Would the child who did not see the circus elephant care as much if it went extinct? Does a walrus on a television program inspire the same wonderment as the one in the aquarium? Mohandas Gandhi stated that, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Today, working animals in the urban setting are among the most highly cared anywhere and in many cases are raising awareness of external threats endangering the very existence of these species.
"Asian Elephant Facts." Asian Elephant Facts. Ringling Bros. Family, 13 Apr. 2007. Web. 13 July 2014.
Beetz, Andrea, Kerstin Uvnäs-Moberg, Henri Julius, and Kurt Kotrschal. "Abstract." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 09 July 2012. Web. 13 July 2014.
DuBose, Renetta. "Ringling Bros. Calls PETA Elephant Abuse Claims "Malarkey"" - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken News, Weather, Sports. WJBF, 05 Feb. 2014. Web. 13 July 2014.
Morgenstern, Erin. The Night Circus: A Novel. New York: Doubleday, 2011. Print.