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When the circus comes to Bristol, protesters speak against animals’ treatment

  • Andrew DeRoma, 9, of Alexandria throws carrots to Jenny, a 45-year-old Asian elephant, at the Kelly Miller Circus before the start of the show at Kelley Park in Bristol on Wednesday, July 5, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Animal rights activists, including Kristina Snyder (center), hold signs protesting Kelly Miller Circus at Kelley Park in Bristol on Wednesday, July 5, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Jenny, a 45-year-old Asian elephant, is seen at the Kelly Miller Circus before the start of the show at Kelley Park in Bristol on Wednesday, July 5, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Two Asian elephants and a sign that reads "We believe in the human/animal bond. We are glad you do too" are seen at the Kelly Miller Circus before the start of the show at Kelley Park in Bristol on Wednesday, July 5, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Animal rights activists hold signs protesting Kelly Miller Circus at Kelley Park in Bristol on Wednesday. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

  • Visitors get camel rides and feed elephants with Kelly Miller Circus before the start of the show at Kelley Park in Bristol on Wednesday, July 5, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Jenny, a 45-year-old Asian elephant, is seen at the Kelly Miller Circus before the start of the show at Kelley Park in Bristol on Wednesday, July 5, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Signs displayed by the circus are seen as animal rights activists hold signs protesting Kelly Miller Circus at Kelley Park in Bristol on Wednesday, July 5, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Visitors receive rides from Humpty Dumpty the camel at the Kelly Miller Circus before the start of the show at Kelley Park in Bristol on Wednesday, July 5, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • An Asian elephant picks up a carrot piece with her trunk at the Kelly Miller Circus before the start of the show at Kelley Park in Bristol on Wednesday, July 5, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)



Monitor staff
Wednesday, July 05, 2017

The past year hasn’t been kind to the circus industry, with perhaps the biggest name in big-top entertainment – The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus – ceasing operations amid declining attendance and increased criticism over the treatment of animals.

But as the Greatest Show on Earth folded many traveling circuses have gone on undeterred.

One such show is the Kelly Miller Circus, back in Bristol on Wednesday for the fourth straight year as a fundraiser for the Lions Club. The small one-ring circus was met by protesters, who said forcing animals to perform for crowds was cruel.

“We have general concerns about animals being used for entertainment, especially in the traveling circus industry,” said Kristina Snyder, a protester and member of the New Hampshire Animal Rights League. “Animals are packed up, carted up and transferred from city to city, day after day, month after month, year after year.”

Theresa Butler, a member of the Lions Club that brought the circus to Bristol, said the protest had no effect on the decision to hold the show this year.

“It doesn’t deter us at all,” she said. “We operate under the premise that everyone has the right to their own opinion ... we ask that it is respectful on both sides of the argument.”

Snyder said the intention was to highlight the mistreatment of animals, especially cruel training methods.

The circus, Snyder said, is especially damaging because the animals know no life outside captivity, and trainers use cruel methods to get the animals to perform.

“These animals have no semblance of (an idea) of the natural environment and what their natural life would be,” she said.

All circuses, Snyder said, contribute to a culture of mistreatment of animals – including the Kelly Miller Circus, which operates out of Oklahoma.

However, the Kelly Miller Circus says that it exceeds all federal animal welfare standards under the USDA’s Animal Welfare Act.

Snyder said she hoped the protest would also pressure lawmakers to ban the circus or certain animals from performing.

Throughout the country, local towns and municipalities have passed ordinances banning circuses. These bans, Snyder said, have a domino effect in stopping further circus performances.

“It affects their whole business in general when even just a handful of places won’t allow the animals to go there,” she said.

While there have been attempts to pass laws banning circuses in New Hampshire, Snyder said these attempts have largely stalled.

‘We’re going to keep pushing for it,” she said. “I think there was some talk of it in Manchester but it didn’t get off the ground.”

In Bristol, the circus didn’t need any special permission to perform since the Lions Club had already obtained an entertainment permit for Kelley Park.