San Francisco – Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! But not if you live in or visit San Francisco, whose legislative body voted unanimously on Tuesday to ban wild and exotic animal performances in circuses and shows.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports the city’s Board of Supervisors approved a measure meant to “protect wild and exotic animals from cruel and inhumane treatment and to protect the public from the danger posed by the use of wild and exotic animals for entertainment.”
Sup. Katy Tang, who proposed the ordinance, said the move is about “equality and justice.” Tang told her colleagues she wants to “address the inequalities for a population that can’t speak” for itself. The sweeping ban covers all but domestic cats, dogs and horses and livestock like cattle, sheep, pigs and goats. Banned from performing in circuses and other shows are not only lions, tigers and bears, but also elephants, sea lions, ferrets, dolphins—even ostriches and emus.
The ban also includes movie and television work involving the covered creatures, prompting the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to send a letter to city officials arguing that “the good middle class jobs that are created by [film and TV] productions” were in danger of going elsewhere.
But the supervisors, all of them Democrats, rejected the economic argument in favor of animal welfare. Sup. Scott Wiener said the training and transport of circus and other performing animals amounts to torture, which should be strictly forbidden “in the city of Saint Francis,” a reference to St. Francis of Assisi, the Catholic patron saint of animals after whom San Francisco is named.
Tang, whose measure is up for final board approval next week, said her ordinance is just the beginning of what she hopes will eventually be a state and nationwide ban similar to the one approved in San Francisco.
San Francisco made headlines in December 2004 when the last elephant was removed from its zoo, a move hailed by animal advocates.
Other US cities have passed measures limiting the presence of wild and exotic animals in circuses and shows. Los Angeles, Austin and Oakland have banned bullhooks, the sharp metal sticks used to control elephants, and numerous nations, including Austria, Croatia, Greece, Malta, have banned wild and exotic animals in circuses altogether.
“It’s ironic that most people who visit circuses actually love animals,” observes Cause Ribbon, a social justice advocacy website with a long-running ‘Boycott the Circus’ awareness ribbon and information campaign:
Kids and grown-ups alike marvel at majestic elephants, awe-inspiring tigers and other animals that perform under the festive big top. But the reality of everyday existence for many circus animals is that life is anything but fun. Separation from family, domination by often cruel humans, violent—even torturous—training, cramped confinement in dismal conditions and the mundane misery stemming from a life of repetitive routine are the stark reality for too many circus animals. All this, just for our entertainment.