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Henry Bergh, the founder of spcaLA (1877) was reputed to be seen frequently fighting with P.T.Barnum on the streets of New York City in order to persuade him that such a use of animals was shameful and immoral. If you do the math you can see that the use of animals in entertainment has been a core issue for as long as we have opened our doors.
For me, it's also personal. The first day of my first animal welfare job ever, required me to go to Madison Square Garden to check on a unicorn that was premiering in the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Baily circus. I was horrified to see that the unicorn was a goat with a horn surgically implanted in her skull. Of course, we were outraged that it wasn't enough that circus animals already had to endure travel hardships, harsh training practices, abnormal environments and extreme stress, but it appeared that surgically transforming animals to look like something else was not off the table. It made me very sad as it pulled the curtain back and forever altered my very positive childhood memories of my father, in a suit, taking my brothers and me, all dressed up, to see the animals and swing our little red circus flashlights as elephants marched and trapeze artists flew.
Ringling cited poor attendance, bullhook bans, elephant bans and animal activists as the reasons for their decision. I say, that we all evolved, community standards changed and that we collectively agreed that magic and illusions are fun as long as the man behind the curtain is not actually beating an animal or any living being to create the effect.
I would like to thank my colleagues for their persistence in this matter and, yes, also Ringling Brothers for finally doing the right and humane thing.