TEAPSPA: Ending Animal Abuse in Traveling Acts
“A hundred years or so ago, when we were ignorant about the intelligence and emotions and ability of a species to communicate, we might have had the excuse of our own ignorance that we treated these animals so badly but we simply don’t have that excuse any longer.”- Jan Creamer, founder of Animal Defenders International and advocate for TEAPSPA.
Traveling performance acts continue to force animals into living conditions, despite the countless cases of animal abuse discovered within a traveling act. Research regarding to the well-being of “big cats” (The Humane Society 4) has revealed that even short-term transportation can have a detrimental impact on their physical and mental health. One study found that the main stress hormone in big cats, “increased as much as 482 percent and remained elevated for nearly two weeks following brief transport periods” (The Humane Society 5). What is considered a brief transition period varies between acts, but that fact that wild animals do not belong in any of the traveling conditions these acts keep them in remains (The Humane Society). In addition, traveling acts do not provide access to emergency health care for performing animals while traveling. Some examples of the devastating effects the lack of health care on the road has on these animals are: a two year old lion that died from heatstroke in 2004, a kangaroo who died from a disease called “lumpy jaw”, a bacterial infection in the jawbone which leads to swelling and a shift in the bone, (The Humane Society 5), an elephant that died from salmonella in 1997, three elephants and eight llamas died after being crowded into in overheated trailer in 1997, and many others. All of these animals were neglected treatment for serious illnesses while still being forced to perform in the traveling act that owned them. Another very troubling case of animal abuse in a traveling act was brought to light in 2015 in New York City. The performing tigers were kept in compartments on the travel trailer with only 64 square feet of floor space, or about one-fourth the size of a 1-car garage. In comparison, the average size of tiger enclosures at zoos 5,500 square feet (The Humane Society 12,13). Animal abuse in traveling acts is not just part of the past, it still continues to this day. A recent investigation from the Humane Society found that a tiger trainer mistreated his tigers, in violation of the Animal Welfare Act. A video revealed that Ryan Easley, the accused tiger trainer, beating his tigers with whips and sticks. One tiger was hit “31 times in less than two minutes” (The Humane Society 13). It is apparent that animals involved in traveling acts have suffered countless abuses over the years. The fact that these instances have occurred and continue to occur under approved American legislation is very troubling and constitutes a reconsideration of current legislation that allows or this mistreatment of animals to occur, and what legal action should be taken to end the abuse.
Animals were first introduced to the circus in the 17th century and since then have been forced to perform under abusive circumstances in a huge number of acts and circuses. Since circuses were first introduced, legislation has changed but not in the ways necessary to eradicate the continued animal abuse occurring in circuses. The Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act is a bill that was introduced to congress in 2017 that would make it illegal to include wild animals in traveling acts where they perform in front of an audience. This legislation would lead to the end of a large number of circuses in the US unless alterations were made to how circuses transport their animals. Transporting animals from one performing location to another in the circus is where animals receive some of the most damaging abuse such as remaining in dark cages for 23 out of 24 hours for multiple days in a row (The Humane Society 7). This has traumatic and very damaging long term for these animals and TEAPSPA would eliminate this part of the circus, yet it has not yet been passed and made a bill, ending the suffering for many animals currently enduring abuse. In order to effectively ensure the safety of animals used in traveling acts and improve conditions for audiences of these performances, the TEAPSPA bill should be understood and passed. TEAPSPA is a bill that’s effectively protects wild and exotic animals, prevents public safety hazard, and saves taxpayer money.
TEAPSPA is a bill that was introduced with the purpose of ending a problematic practice made legal by the current Animal Welfare Act in congress. The Animal Welfare Act is “the only federal law in the US that regulates the treatment of animals in research, exhibition, transport, and by dealers” (USDA). In addition, this law is referred to as, “the minimum acceptable standard” (USDA) when taken into consideration for other, “laws, policies, and guidelines” (USDA). This flimsy and problematic law has been in place since 1966 (USDA), and it is time to strengthen the legal protection we offer to these animals by passing TEAPSPA. The TEAPSPA bill would prohibit the use of “exotic and wild animals” in performances that are considered “traveling acts”. The bill would not impact the use of animals in zoos, aquariums, research facilities, or film, and the possession of farm animals or domestic animals. Passing the TEAPSPA bill would only alter the way animals are used in traveling acts such as carnivals, parades, and circuses. This bill was first introduced to the house in 2017 and was most recently referred to as the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture in April of 2017. Since then there has been no further progress towards passing it as a law.
Individuals who opposed the passing of the TEAPSPA law consist of groups such as the Cavalry group which has the purpose of defending and protecting the “animal enterprise”. One reason organizations like this one provide for disapproving of the passing of TEAPSPA into a law is because it would eliminate the opportunities for individuals, especially young children to observe exotic wild animals up close. They state this would be problematic because these interactions with wild animals create a love and appreciation for wild animals in the individuals, again most importantly in the children, who observe them. They also provide that TEAPSPA would decrease the amount of opportunity for exotic animals involved in traveling acts to breed, because these animals would be removed from traveling acts where breeding is encouraged in an often unsafe way (The Humane Society), and therefore TEAPSPA would increase the amount of species going extinct. They especially emphasize these effects will be most problematic due to the zoos and aquariums that will be “shut down” if TEAPSPA is made into a law. They lastly provide that TEAPSPA will end many organizations that offer information to the general public with regard to exotic animals. This would be problematic because this would remove the “wonder” and intrigue sparked in the audiences of these exotic animals.
However, groups like these, from what they base their reasoning against the passing of TEAPSPA, oppose TEAPSPA due to a lack of understanding of what impacts this bill would actually have. A very important part of this bill is the phrase “traveling acts” which as previously stated only applies to performances where animals are constantly being moved around in order to be able to perform in various different places. This means it would not limit the use of wild animals in facilities such as zoos and aquariums where exotic animals are bred often and, for the most part, in healthy ways. The bill directly states passing TEAPSPA will not,” apply to the use of animals, zoos aquariums, research facilities, film, television, advertising, rodeos, domestic animals, or farm animals” as long as, “the performance is not before a public studio or audience” (Congressional Research Service). Meaning, these various establishments and uses would still be able to provide education to their audiences with regard to the wild animals on display at that facility.
TEAPSPA would be an especially effective new bill because of its focus on ending traveling acts of animals specifically. Animal welfare experts have found that it is “grueling and stressful for animals to always be on the road, confined to tight spaces, and made to perform before screaming audiences” (National Geographic) which are the exact circumstances animals involved in traveling acts are forced into. Research from Volume 92, Issue 3 of Meichel Korte’s journal “Physiology and Behavior” titled A new animal welfare concept based on allostasis that animals, very commonly animals involved in traveling acts, who are kept in the same conditions for extended periods of time experience trauma and negative effects to their long-term physical and mental wellbeing, as a result of extensive and unnatural confinement. Animals in Traveling acts are constantly kept in the same conditions for extensive periods of time as shown. However, the papers aim of mending congress’ current Animal Welfare act has not been acted upon to this day. TEAPSPA is a bill with realistic chance of becoming a law with the capability of lessoning the abuse experienced in traveling acts due to the outdated belief, that is reflected by the Animal Welfare Act, that maintaining “homeostasis” (Korte) through maintaining animals in a similar environment for long periods of time is necessary for animal welfare. These problems with the idea of homeostasis being incremental to animal welfare is that, “it suggests that without environmental challenges good animal welfare can be guaranteed.” (Korte). This plays a huge role in why there are so many loopholes in the Animal Welfare Act and why animals are able to be kept in the same circumstances for such long periods of time. The data collected in this study prove allosteric conditions where animals are stimulated by new things yielded a much higher production of positive emotional hormones in the animals than those who received the same stimulations. In addition, their data shows a huge incline in the amount of stress responses from the animals kept in homeostatic conditions compared to those in allosteric. Because of this, this study is very effective in summarizing why TEAPSPA’s emphasis on the elimination of traveling acts is so groundbreaking, for animals involved in these sorts of acts experience the detrimental effects of not making appropriate moral adjustments despite an abundance of scientific evidence offering attainable solutions.
The circus would no longer be allowed to transport animals from location to location in order to perform with the passing of TEAPSPA, and the economic effects of this would be largely, positive for Americans. Circuses must be regulated heavily and the costs of this can be very expensive. A part of these regulations is having United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) do up to 42 various inspections within three years, when one inspection has an average cost of $1,363 (ADI). The UK spends an average of $13,000-19,000 on inspections and licenses alone annually, compared to the US which does not have an estimated figure but does have six times as many circuses to inspect. However, under the Animal Welfare Act, the costs of traveling acts are rarely federally regulated and as a result, animals taxpayers pay for 87% of licensing costs while large establishments such as the circuses only are accountable for paying 13% of the licensing costs (ADI). In addition to this Animal Defenders International points out by shutting down traveling acts with a, majority, animal performers, we are creating new jobs for humans, bettering the economic situation in the US, and freeing exotic and wild animals that have been abused. Additionally, tickets to an all human performing staff range in cost from $25-300 while animal acts range on average from $14-100 per ticket, which brings in much less revenue compared to that of a unanimously human circus or other traveling act (ADI). Angelo Andres Olaya, an activist a lead artist of the animal free circus in Peru states” we must fire the animals, so the clowns can be hired.” (ADI).
Passing TEAPSPA would not only protect wild animals, it also would prevent a range of public safety hazards. In banning the use of animals in traveling acts, this bill would offer protection to employees and audience members. One main issue is animals spreading diseases to their audiences and trainers. One example of this was brought to light by Kathleen Michalak in 1998 in volume 4 of her journal “Emerging Infectious Diseases” when she discusses three circus elephants that died from Tuberculosis (TB) and the eleven employees that tested positive for TB as well. In addition, this study reported that there were “thirty-four confirmed cases of TB in the US population between 1994 and 2005” (ADI). This study introduced the negative effects of disease spreading in circuses many years ago, yet altercations have not been made to improve the animals’ health and ability to spread disease and therefore these issues continue. Another public safety issue TEAPSPA eliminates are the high rates of animals escaping from the circus, many who has developed violent tendencies while kept in confinement or naturally are aggressive. Some examples of this are: in 2014 three elephants escaped from the circus and rampaged through the parking lot, in 2013 a tiger attacked a trainer and killed him in the Suarez Circus, in 2012 a Cole Bros circus truck crashed, greatly injuring a number of wild animals, and a camel ran into open traffic, in 2012 in the Courtney Bros. circus and elephant trainer was crushed to death trying to break up a fight between two elephants just days after a baby elephant had escaped in the same circus, in 2010 a startled elephant trampled its owner in the James Hamid circus, in 2010 a circus elephant killed a thirteen year old boy by throwing him to the ground twice after the boy and his friends teased the animal, in 2008 a bus killed an elephant after it escaped from the circus after being untied to eat just like she was every day, in 2006 a man was trampled and attacked by an escaped elephant, in 2006 a sixteen year old was attacked by a circus tiger resulting in a 5 inch wound down to the bone, and many more. All of these instances took place in a traveling act and were greatly harmful and not only physically dangerous but also had hugely negative impacts on the phycological wellbeing of those involved. Animals are not supposed to be kept in the conditions traveling acts force them into and as a result, traveling acts continue to pose a threat to public safety and require the passing of TEAPSPA to eliminate this.
Overall, traveling acts have failed to provide an environment that is safe for animals for far too many years. The animals are abused and mistreated, often resulting in permanent effects. There have been countless examples of abuse and moral injustice within traveling acts but there has been no real action towards legally enforcing that the animals involved in traveling acts well-being be taken into consideration and valued. This capitalistic adventure that traveling acts like the circus do not take proper precautions to ensure the safety of the wild animals providing them with performance content, as they are solely focused on profit. in order to advocate for these animals who do not have the opportunity to do so themselves, it is necessary TEAPSPA become a law.
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