Should Big Cats Perform?
Should Big Cats Perform? . Because of what happened with Siegfried and Roy’s tiger Montecore and Roy Horn, hundreds of people have asked us the same two questions: “What was the tiger really thinking?” “Is it fair to animals to make them do tricks?” I don’t know the answer to the first question. (Who could say they know what any other living thing is thinking?)
Here’s what I think about the second question:
Inhumane means “without pity or compassion” or “showing a lack of pity or compassion.” To force someone to do what you want just to make yourself happy or get something for yourself shows that you don’t care about them.
We have more than 170 exotic cats and are the largest big-cat rescue in the world. Eighty percent of the cats came from the entertainment industry or were once pets. We use a technique called “operant conditioning” to get the cat to do things we need for the cat’s care, like lie down against the wire so we can check its ears or open its mouth so we can check its teeth. It is a training method that most circus acts claim to use. There is no punishment, but the cat gets a small amount of food if it does what is asked.
I’d be the first to say that these cats shouldn’t be in cages and needing medical care, but that’s a different debate for another day. The most important thing is not to learn the tricks. Most people don’t know that traveling acts are often only limited by USDA rules, which say that an animal’s cage only needs to be big enough for it to stand up and turn around, and a cat can’t be kept in a smaller cage for more than 60 days. But the 60 days start over every time the cat goes into the circus ring. Many of the cats who come to us have permanent scars on their noses, hips, and shoulders from hitting the sides of their tiny cages every time they try to move.
People often say that animals used in shows get regular food, medical care, and a place to live for life (or until they no longer want to perform), but to us, that sounds like prison. Not many of us would think it was a good thing to be born and raised in a life of confinement and having to give in to our oppressor’s will. Cats are the best hunters and the most strong-willed animals. That’s why we are so scared of them and why so many people want to show how much better they are by being able to control a much bigger and stronger animal.
It’s easy to say that industries that use animals for profit are bad, but it all comes down to supply and demand. People will see that every choice we make has an effect on the world around us, and that effect can be good or bad depending on the choice we make.
“An unexamined life is not worth living,” said Socrates. People’s choices will be more kind when they really think about why they want to see a beautiful animal in a cage or being forced to perform. When people put their own wants and needs aside and try to find out the truth about how these animals live when they are not in public, they will feel sorry for them.
People are getting smarter and more aware of the world around them. I’m sure that in 20 years, people will look back on this controversial issue and wonder how anyone could have thought it was humane to treat animals this way.