In response to the alleged animal cruelty of a traveling circus performing in Huntsville, several Sam Houston State University students are protesting their shows.
The Carson and Barnes Circus performed at the Walker County Fairgrounds Monday and will have two more performances in Huntsville today.
As a part of Student Government Association’s animal cruelty awareness month, freshman computer science major and SGA Senator Yesenia Valles is spearheading the protests half an hour before each performances begin at 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectfully.
“Lately I have been forcing myself to open my eyes and see that humans are not the only species that matter,” Valles said. “If anything, we are the only species that if we were to totally vanish, all other life could then flourish. We should be minimizing the harm we do to the environment and its animal we co-exist with, since our existence itself is harmful to them.”
According to Valles, Carson and Barnes Circus has documented cruelty instances utilizing electric prongs, bull hooks and torches in training their animals. Valles also claimed that some circuses—not naming any in particular—capture baby elephants straight from the wild because it is easier to train them at an early age.
“[The animals] are sentient beings and deserve to be released to an animal sanctuary where they can mimic the behaviors they have in the wild since they have been deprived of them the majority of their lives,” Valles said.
Carson and Barnes Circus manager Kristin Parra, who travelled with the circus to Huntsville denied that any acts of animal cruelty had been committed by the company.
“We invite anyone and everybody to come and see how well cared for our animals are,” Parra said. “They are out on display 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the general public. We are regulated by local humane agencies who come and check on our animals regularly so if these animals were being abused, we would not be able to keep them.”
Mass Communication sophomore and recently elected SGA Chief of Staff Leslie Garcia is one of the participants in the protest.
“We feel that if more people know about these practices then the circus will have less spectators,” Garcia said. “Of course some people don’t care but those who do will make a difference. We want to make a difference. If we can start a small group here at Sam to fight for animal rights, then that can change perspectives, not many but some. Not many are interested in being a voice for animals but I am and so is Senator Yesenia. And we will fight and speak for them.”
Junior economics major Maddie Mortimore, who is a vegan, is also participating in the protest.
“I feel very strongly for the issue of animal rights,” Mortimore said. “I am a vegan, therefore I do not eat anything that comes from an animal. I believe that animals are not for us to use and abuse as we please. My ultimate goal is to eradicate the use of wild animals in circuses. However, this event is to primarily raise awareness and make people think twice before they purchase a ticket.”
Valles said she often reflects on a famous Martin Luther King Jr. quote to continue inspiring her which states that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
“We cannot be so selfish as to have these animals in captivity on the charges that they amuse children,” Valles said. “If you took the animals out and replaced them with humans, you would have slavery. It’s time we stop making excuses and take animals out of entertainment.”
Valles said students, faculty and anyone else wanting to get involved can, in addition to joining the protest, research information and get involved with animal rights groups, among other things.
“Research your sources online,” Valles said. “Simply Google ‘circus cruelty’ and you will have thousands of articles come up in graphic detail. If this information makes anyone upset, which it should—get involved with animal rights. Sign petitions, keep up to date on where circuses are traveling, write to your legislatures, start your own protests. Be the voice they don’t have any way you can.”
At the conclusion of two days’ worth of protests, Valles said she hopes the Carson and Barnes Circus will think twice, not only next time they plan to come through Huntsville but the next time they decide to commit an act of animal cruelty.
“I hope that Carson and Barnes Circus will see that SHSU and Huntsville are not blind to their acts of cruelty and take that into consideration when they are trying to decide where they will be showing next,” Valles said. “I also hope this shows students that you should jump at chances to exercise your moral and civil duty: to stop injustice in its tracks. Discourage everyone from supporting any industry that exploits animals. Not everyone behind bars has committed a crime.”
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I have to say these students are doing amazing things. They are a great example of how we should all be respecting and thinking about animals. They are also wonderful role models for youth today. Way to go and keep up the great work! SHSU should be extremely proud !