Montrose Daily Press - Montrose, Colorado
Opposing views of the circus
June 8, 2006
MONTROSE — A display exhibiting cruelty suffered by circus animals was removed from the lobby of Montrose Regional Library on Tuesday.
It was created by Peggy McClarren, who stood outside the Western Colorado Shrine Circus at the Montrose fairgrounds that evening with her grandchildren, protesting circus animal abuse.
“To hell with them,” Pete Loncar, Shrine Circus chairman said. “They pulled this last year, too.”
McClarren said the library display had been up since May 1, in hopes of deterring children from attending the circus. Using dried moss, poster board, styrofoam, plastic animals and cages, she put together what appeared to be animals being taken from the big jungle and locked into small cages. This is the second year she has used the library display and she intends to continue using it as long as the circus comes to town.
“There was one in particular that looked like an anteater. It was in an odd-looking cage, with a small forearm hanging out to the ground and its nose sticking out under the bottom bar,” said Cheryl McHose, a concerned resident. “It was very disturbing.”
McHose saw the display while attending a monthly quilt meeting at the library. She said that the display was inappropriate, especially during the library’s summer reading program for children. When she saw the TV commercial for the Shrine Circus, she remembered the library display and decided that people should be aware of the display in light of the fact that the circus goes to benefit children.
“We basically provide a forum for community discussion,” Paul Paladino, library director said. “We don’t support or endorse any displays unless they are put up by the library.”
He said that there had been one phone call and a couple second-hand complaints concerning the display. “If people are on one side or the other, they sometimes don’t perceive us as neutral,” he said.
McHose said that she did not complain to the library. She called the Daily Press.
Loncar has been the circus chairman since its inception. He said he has never seen any mistreatment of animals and that he doubts many people listen to the protesters.
“I’ll bet you they (circus trainers) take better care of the animals than they do their own kids,” Loncar said.
“They have to chain those elephants there. They can’t be running around town.”
This year, the circus had one Montrose show instead of two, as it had done in years before. McClarren said that this is because people are becoming aware of the misery those animals are put through.
Loncar said Tuesday’s show went much better than last year, and that more people attended.
McClarren said that the elephants, tigers and bears one observes at a circus do not perform because they wish to please the crowd.
“You cannot train a tiger like a dog, a cat or a horse,” McClarren said. “You have to intimidate them, make them afraid of you so that they do what you want them to do.”
A part of her display at the library was the sleeve to a DVD titled “Circus Elephants: Training and Trajedy.” The film depicts trainers from the Carson and Barnes Circus whacking elephants with bull hooks and cattle prods to make them do special tricks. It shows some suffering from disease and being forced to perform under injury.
The climax of the nine minute feature illustrates rampaging elephants breaking through fences, busting into a store and running down the street. In the final scene, an elephant is hunched next to a car on a city street while men shoot it with live ammunition. The beast can’t escape; blood trickles down its limp trunk, it shakes its head and collapses.
Shot by an undercover member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, this brief video is certainly disturbing.
“The most opposition is people who are assuming that once I have success with getting the circus stopped, now I’m gonna try and stop the 4-H club and rodeos,” McClarren said. She said that this is not her intention, as the way that circus animals are treated is by far much more despicable than these others.
“This is our only moneymaker; what we make in Montrose, Delta and Grand Junction,” Loncar said, referring to the Shrine Circuses. “This is our only source of money.”
Shriners are known for their philanthropy, primarily the 22 children’s hospitals throughout North America. Loncar said they take care of the children’s treatments to the extent that they even pay for transportation to the hospitals.
“(We) thank the people for supporting us, because that’s very important,” he said. “And you know, the Shriners try to do what’s right, and if they saw abuse of anything, they’d do something about it.”
McClarren said that if the Shrine Circus decides to come to town next year, she is going to petition for the county to put an option on the ballot to have the circus banned for the next few years.