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Cavalia: Why not all animal acts are inhumane

Posted Feb 03 2010 10:00pm

Last night I attended the mid-week showing of Cavaliathe Canada-based equine spectacular currently taking the US by storm.

Considering the accolades and effusive praise it received from my friends and colleagueswouldn't have missed it. All I needed was a good enough excuse to blow more than my monthly entertainment budget on one night's guilty pleasure. LuckilyI found one: My son's 12th birthday (today).

If you've been fortunate enough to attend this display of freeform horsemanshipyou'll second this glowing review: The horses thunder around and across the stagethey line dance their brand of dressage as well as the Lipizzaners doand they display their near-immaculate moves with hands-free commands. All this with an impressive 1:1 ratio of stallions to geldings. (no mares to fight over.)

Best of allthe 60-plus horses travel in luxuryare attended to with the same precision that obviously attends their trainingand generally get treated like family.

But that hasn't kept some of the more off-center animal rightists from offering their opinion on the subject. Some apparently hold that it's disrespectful to force animals to perform. 

How do I know? Below is a Q I received via email last week. Following itI've printed the answer I included in last weekend's Miami Herald article on the subject. Enjoy and feel free to offer your opinions in the comments section...

Q: Could you spend some time explaining that people should not spend their money on circuses? I’m sick of seeing the animals treated so poorly at these venues. I used to think Cirque de Soleil had it right until this Cavalia thing. Please tell people not to support the inhumane treatment of animals at shows like this.

A: Agreed. From a veterinarian’s point of viewI would hasten to support your contention that a wild animal’s welfare is not best served in a circus setting. Even if these outfits treated animals in the most humane manner possiblethe less-than-serene atmosphere of a circus environmentalong with its typical transienceis not suited to animals whose natures are not conducive to excitement and whose basic health is undermined each time they travel. 

MoreoverI believe it humiliates wild animals to force them into this kind of human servitude. It’s disrespectful. And let’s not forget that circuses offer the wrong impression when it comes to teaching children that wild animals should be respected and protected. Though it may entertain themit can’t possibly do kids any good to see wild animals treated as nothing more than objects of amusement. 

Was that what you wanted me to write? 

It wasn’t hard. I buy all these arguments and more. Though I consider myself a moderate animal welfaristyou might actually count me on PETA’s side of things on the subject of wild animal shows as part of circuses. 

But here’s the catch: You won’t catch me dissing Cavalia in the process. Though I haven’t yet attended the horse-themedcircus-like spectacle (at Bayfront Park through February 7th)my intrepid veterinary sources inform me that the treatment of these horses is beyond compare. 

It’s also my take that the recruitment of horses for shows such as Cavalia’s cannot compare to the use of wild animals (such as elephants and tigers) in circuses. Horses have been domesticated by humans for thousands of years andas suchtheir longstanding relationship to humans as both workers and companions means they train welltravel wellbond with humans and––in most cases––clearly enjoy their work.

Though the most militant animal rights groups may disagree with me (and so might you)I’ve got no beef with Cavalia. The horses are pampered and out of harm’s way. What’s morethe show is all about the bond we share with our fellow animals. Can’t argue with thateither.

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