We Should Not Use Animals For Entertainment Essay Example


Humans, as a whole, have always loved animals, with dogs being by man’s side as our best friend for thousands of years. However, there’s some less empathetic, who give a darker twist to the joy animals bring- as they have long been a tool of the entertainment industry. This is a problem as being used for human entertainment negatively impacts animals, with some people being unaware of this or willingly ignoring this issue. Bob Dylan’s lyric, “How many times can a man turn his head, and pretend that he just doesn't see?” resonates with this situation with the theme of ignorance from some members of the public towards this issue due to a variety of selfish reasoning, such as financial gain or entertainment. Demand for this form of entertainment is only increasing- with more and more people visiting attractions involving animals as time goes on (Dragotta). The use of animals in entertainment is unethical and should be discontinued or severely regulated, as abuse is commonly inflicted on the animals used, animal welfare laws relating to exhibition are becoming unsatisfactory, and these practices negatively influence the wellbeing of endangered animals. 

ABUSE IN THE INDUSTRY

Before anything else, the principle issue with the utilization of animals in entertainment is the blatant disregard for their welfare in pursuit of self-benefit. This benefit can be a number of things- job security, economic gain, or more simply, pure entertainment. This human desire has been apparent as a problem for natural life throughout history, represented by Margaret Thatcher’s quote from her 1989 United Nations General Assembly, “It is life itself—human life, the innumerable species of our planet—that we wantonly destroy. It is life itself that we must battle to preserve.” This statement can apply to how the life of species is affected by the entertainment industry, hurt by those cruel and ignorant alike. 

One glaring example of this ignorance winning out is the increasing market for elephant rides, which are popular tourist spots in places like Thailand. As fun as elephant riding is for tourists, it has a basis of abuse. Elephants aren’t designed to have weight on their back, as their spine protrudes upwards. Human weight can cause severe damage to the sensitive spine (Matthews). Going deeper into the harm of elephants, the practice used to tame these creatures is called phajaan, a common method of controlling the elephants. Phajaan- which translates to “the crush,” involves baby elephants being stabbed, whipped, confined, and verbally abused to instill fear. After the process is complete, their handler frees them, making the elephant dependent on them and terrified of going through the process again. This fear makes them docile enough to allow being ridden. This is common practice with elephant riding parks, with most tourists being completely unaware of how the elephant they’re riding has been tamed (Thailand Elephants). World Animal Protection (WAP) also found that 77% are living in “severely cruel” conditions, deprived of social interaction and adequate food. Elephants are very social and intelligent, and being separated from their kind is damaging emotionally. Sadly, elephant riding is only growing in popularity, as WAP also found a 30% increase in the number of elephants at tourist venues, showing there are more needed to keep up with demand (Wilson). This example of the truth behind elephant riding is surprising, but displays the unethicality of animal tourism, and why it needs to end despite any financial gain or amusement it provides. 

LEGAL PROTECTIONS OF PERFORMING ANIMALS

A secondary issue with animals being used for entertainment is the fact that animals have  few, inadequately enforced legal protections which renders any harmful exploitation of them unethical. Animals have legal rights that barely extend beyond basic cruelty laws- they are more generally considered property (Mukherji). One example of this is the use of animals for exhibition in circuses, which has been a subject of controversy for a while. Circuses state that only positive reinforcement, like treats after a successful trick, is used to train their animals. However, Animal Legal and Historical Center claims, “Although positive reinforcement is indeed part of a trainer’s repertoire, it is by no means his or her only tool, and it is not enough to guarantee control in the ring.” Animal Legal also states that the physical abuse of show animals has been well documented and that the existence of such treatment is inarguable. (Niedrich). This is showing that despite the allegement of these circuses, many are exhibiting behavior violating the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) by using abusive negative reinforcement as a training method. This act was established in 1966 and regulates the treatment of animals in research and exhibition. It is the minimal standard for animal care and demands humane treatment of all warm-blooded animals (United States Department of Agriculture).

It is apparent that the AWA is commonly violated in circuses in other ways as well- animals spend months on the road in unhygienic conditions, confined in too small cages under exceedingly hot temperatures- once having a recorded temperature of 109 degrees Fahrenheit with inadequate water or ventilation (Tilden). Some animals even attempt to escape, or attack those nearby out of desperation (Winders). This evidence shows that the Animal Welfare Acts are often being violated in circuses due to this inhumane treatment, and that the Acts need additional reinforcement and regulation for the sake of the performing animals. Michigan State Law remarks, “A concerted effort must be made to strengthen laws protecting show animals, and to provide adequate means... for enforcement of these laws.  Trainers and owners with multiple AWA complaints should be investigated, and their licenses suspended or revoked.” Michigan Law brings up the point that animals mistreated should be relinquished by their owners, like Barnum & Bailey, in order to give abused animals better living conditions away from show business. (Tilden). This displays what can be done to improve the legal situation surrounding performing animals, and that these improvements are certainly possible with some effort. 

Another instance of inadequate legalities surrounding animal showings is the usage of marine life in parks such as SeaWorld. The act of keeping intelligent marine animals in captivity, such as the popular killer whales, to perform tricks is inherently inhumane. Former SeaWorld trainer and current orca advocate John Hargrove states, “It would make my life so much easier if I could say that those animals are thriving in captivity, living happy and enriched lives. Unfortunately, after all the years of experience that I had, I saw the psychological and physical trauma that results from captivity. A massive corporate entity is exploiting the whales and the trainers.” (National Geographic). This demonstrates that the animals used in performance are being mistreated in ways that can violate basic animal welfare laws, and that what little legal protection entertaining animals have is lacking, while large corporations take advantage and capitalize on this. 

THE WELLBEING OF ENDANGERED SPECIES 

Endangered species are commonly used in entertainment due to their exotic nature. Some popular animals are tigers, lions, and elephants, with high demand as performers. Circuses can be reused as another strong example of this, with their main attractions involving exotic animals contributing negatively to the welfare of endangered species. According to Michigan State University Law, one male lion used by the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus died in his boxcar due to excess temperatures in Arizona in July of 2004. More big cats, two endangered Bengal tigers, were euthanized in 2001 due to conditions resulting from improper care. In a separate occasion, in 1999, another endangered Bengal was shot after lashing out due to high amounts of stress following a long photoshoot (Tilden). 

This is concerning, as wild populations of big cats are declining every year. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) states there are only around 2,500 Bengal tigers left in the world. Lion populations have also dropped by 40 percent over the last three generations (WWF). The treatment of these endangered big cats from circuses like the Ringling Brothers only exacerbates the issue. The mistreatment of elephants in different entertaining scenarios, like circuses and riding, is an issue, as elephant populations have dropped by 110,000 in the span of ten years (WWF). Although much of this decline stems from poaching, the harmful treatment in the entertainment industry is doing elephants no favors. Ringling Brothers actually shut down in 2017 due to decreasing ticket sales (Schelling). Unfortunately, other circuses still exist that utilize endangered animals in the same way with similar abusive treatment (Winders). Instead of allowing the mistreatment of endangered animals in the name of entertainment and profit, more needs to be done to inform the public on the conservation status of these species, and why using them for entertainment is harmful. 

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the usage of animals in entertainment should be much more heavily regulated or discontinued entirely, due to ethical reasons. The crux of the problem is the fact that utilized animals such as elephants in tourist venues and performing animals in circuses and marine parks commonly have abuse inflicted during training and are subjected to inhumane conditions. Secondary reasoning that incorporates this mistreatment is the current legal situation surrounding the animal entertainment industry, as animals being exhibited have few protections under cruelty laws like the Animal Welfare Acts. These laws are exploitable by circuses and other animal exhibitors, and require more stringent regulation and examination to prevent animal suffering. Another concern involves the welfare of endangered animals, which are commonly used in performances. A subdivision of animals under careful conservation watch are big cats, like lions and tigers. Elephants are also at concern for extinction. The population numbers of these endangered animals are continuously dropping, with the inhumane treatment shown by circuses only contributing to these declining numbers. 

All of these reasons centering around abuse and mistreatment are why the usage of animals in the entertainment industry needs to discontinue. There needs to be an increase in public awareness of what happens to the stars behind the show, despite any other benefits these animals bring like entertainment, or financial gain. Therefore, if some public ignorance is dispelled, and more people are aware that involved animals are not treated humanely, it may be a step closer to putting an end to animals being used in the entertainment industry.

 

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