Before I had kids, when they were just a figment of my imagination, I wondered how my animal rights-related convictions would play out on them. I discussed in great detail with my partner the kinds of things I’d bend for and the ones I wouldn’t. School field trips to zoos and circuses were at the forefront of my concerns.
I bent last year when my sons’ pre-k class went to the Bronx Zoo, despite it being one of more than 200 zoos not exactly known for their conservation. I was new to the NYC public school system and didn’t want to make waves where I was not yet known — what’s more, I wanted so very much for my kid to fit in. Looking back, I regret this.
Next month, his kindergarten class is going to see the Big Apple Circus. While it’s a circus that doesn’t use exotic animals in their acts, it still teaches and displays human dominance over animals. Though BAC trainers may treat their animals far better than most circus acts, the animals are not free to leave their predicaments. They are forced to do tricks and performances through manipulation or coercion simply for our entertainment, which is something I very much oppose.
I discussed my feelings with his teacher, I got the thumbs up to “stick with my principles and do what’s right” from my husband, and explained to my son that when his class goes to the circus, he wouldn’t be going to school that day. And since going to school is a drag for my five year old, his eyes lit up at the news. The jury’s out on whether he’ll thank me some day or persecute me.
Where there’s support, there’s also criticism…
Certain family members think I’m depriving my kids of a childhood, and some friends think I’m too much. But I don’t care. Whether I’m around to see it or not, these kinds of performances will be obsolete some day and generations after us will wince and scoff at the mere thought of chained, leashed, whipped and encaged animals. Hopefully my children will want to help carry the torch I’m working to pass to them, and if not, that’s ok too.