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Exotic Animals in Entertainment: the Pros and Cons

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The entertainment industry is a controversial subject, especially pertaining to the use of exotic animals for human enjoyment. The purpose of this research paper is to explore the history of exotic animals in entertainment and how the industry is viewed by the general public in the twenty-first century. The explanation of the history, legal aspects, organizations involved, public image, and the controversy of the industry will be covered as the primary goal of the research. The truth behind the entertainment industry will be revealed by examining historical archives such as the Circus Maximus in Rome, studying mass media records, and laws. The research highlights the controversy pertaining to the use of exotic animals in the entertainment industry by discussing the solutions available and also the negative and positive aspects of both parties. No flawless answer existed upon the completion of the analysis determining if humans can use exotic animals in the entertainment industry. Keywords: exotic animals, entertainment, movies, television, animal performances, zoos, history of animals in entertainment

Exotic Animals in Entertainment:
Pros and Cons
The entertainment industry is a large and diverse industry ranging from Hollywood celebrities to stand-up comedians. Hollywood celebrities may have the spotlight in the entertainment industry but exotic animals also share the spotlight. Exotic animals perform and are exhibited in the entertainment industry for human leisure in zoos, television, movies, and live performances. People began to fear others would mishandle and would not provide the proper care for the exotic animals in the entertainment industry causing conflict. The conflict would interfere with the livelihood of workers in the entertainment industry because the organizations wanted to ban the use of exotic animals. Questions about the use of exotic animals for entertainment purposes have risen because of conflicts such as: 1. What are the positive effects of exotic animals in the entertainment industry? 2. What are the negative outcomes of exotic animals in the entertainment
industry? 3. How can we improve the conditions of exotic animals in the industry? 4. How do we decide the standards for the care of exotic animals in the industry? The perfect answer does not exist; however, understanding the history and truths of the industry will help to find a better solution. History of Animals in Entertainment

Exotic animals for entertainment purposes date back to 2000 BC in the ancient civilization of Macedonia (Library Index, 2012a). The archaeological digs shed evidence the ancient civilization kept lions in cages, an early form of modern day zoos (2012a). Royalty of other ancient civilizations were fascinated by exotic animals such as the princes in Arabia and kings, queens or emperors of China, Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Greece, and Rome. The ancient civilizations’ rulers would often collect exotic animals such tigers, lions, bears, giraffes, elephants, and alligators. Historians believe the collections of exotic animals were symbols of power and wealth (2012a). The Greeks were the first to have large collections of exotic animals (2012a). The majority of the collections were for educational purposes although bloody battles pitting humans or animals against other animals were documented (2012a). Ancient Greece’s counterpart was ancient Rome, the civilization was better known for the bloody fights between living creatures (2012a).

Rulers of ancient Rome used exotic animals in coliseums for entertainment for themselves and their people and an example would be the Circus Maximus (Circus, 2011). Entertainment events at the Circus Maximus included chariot races and battles between gladiators and exotic animals (Circus, 2011). The events were dangerous but were promoted to citizens as fun and entertaining even though death and severe injuries were often a common occurring result. The coliseums in ancient Rome were similar to modern day circuses because of their atmosphere. The Circus Maximus is large compared to modern day circuses. Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus had a main-tent seating capacity of 10,000 in 1924 while the Circus Maximus could hold an estimated 300,000 spectators (Circus, 2011) ( Ringling Brothers 2012). The seating arrangements are also similar because the audiences’ seats encircle the entertainment unusually in an oval shape. Another similarity is spectators would often travel from afar to be entertained. Modern day circuses and the Circus Maximus have two major differences. The Circus Maximus could not relocate its location and the owners of modern circuses are concerned about their entertainers’ welfare.

Centuries later in medial Europe monarchs would often present other rulers with exotic animals as gifts to gain their favor and in some parts of the world presenting wild animals as gifts still exists between government leaders (Thomas, 1996). King Henry I of England (1068-1135) established the first royal menagerie from the exotic animals he received as gifts in the town of Woodstock (Library Index, 2012a). The French word menagerie means housing for domestic animals when translated into English (2012a). The successor of the crown after six generations is King Henry III (1216-1272) and he relocates the royal menagerie to the Tower of London (Thomas, 1996).

During the reign of King Henry III the London Tower became home to an assortment of exotic animals and the London Tower would become known as the Tower Menagerie (Thomas, 1996). The Tower Menagerie featured a variety of exotic animals such as a polar bear, a porcupine, camels, and African elephants (1996). The Tower Menagerie would remain for hundreds of years becoming a tourist attraction in the sixteenth century (1996). The Tower Menagerie is the longest continuous animal exhibit in the world, relocating its animals to the London Zoo in the 1830s (1996). The royal menagerie was inspirational to medieval entrepreneurs who developed traveling menageries (1996).

The entrepreneurs traveled the countryside making profits from curious spectators and by the late 1700s the traveling menageries were called circuses (Thomas 1996). A few years later zoos resembling modern day zoos were established in France, Spain, and Austria; however, historians argued the Aztecs had the first zoo two centuries before the 1800s (Library Index, 2012a). During the mid-1800s the United States and Britain opened their first zoos to the public. Exotic animal performances were not improved in circuses until the 1800s (2012a). Henri Martin (1793-1882) and Isaac Van Amburgh (1801-1865) were famous animal trainers during their time period (2012a). In 1833 Van Amburgh put his head in a lions mouth a daring feat to entertain his audience and he was believed to be the first trainer to complete the stunt (2012a). The daring stunts excited audiences but the entertainment focused on exotic animals’ ferocity and the bravery of the trainers. Trainers and owners used cruel training methods for their animals to establish complete dominance. Common training methods during the time period was starvation, beatings, and animals’ teeth and claws removed.

Ashton Nichols’s online article, “Romantic Rhinos and Victorian Vipers: The Zoo as Nineteenth-Century Spectacle” reports an average life span of large animals in captivity was two years and they suffered immensely from diseases, malnutrition, and cruelty (Library Index, 2012a). Zoos, circuses, and other forms of exotic animal entertainment began to be highly popular during the 1900s especially in England and the United States even when neglect was apparent (2012a). Beginning in the 1920s motion pictures boomed and exotic animals were trained to act for film production. In the beginning the movie industry had no restrictions concerning the welfare of animals (Library Index, 2012b). Concerns and complaints about the welfare of the animals lead to the formation of the film-monitoring unit of the American Humane Association (AHA) and they opened their first film-monitoring building in Los Angeles in 1940 (2012b).

The AHA would not officially be allowed to monitor the welfare of animals appearing on film sets in the United States until 1980 when they were awarded a contract with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) (2012b). Then in 1998 producers must contact and notify the AHA about any animals planned to be used on film sets before production because of the provision of The Producer-Screen Actors Codified Basic Agreement (2012b). AHA ensures the safety of animals in hundreds of productions every year in the United States and producers have also invited the AHA to foreign locations to oversee the animals’ welfare during production. AHA has no jurisdiction outside the United States and any non-SAG productions such as reality programs and documentaries (Library Index 2012b). The AHA has criticized reality shows such as Survivor and Fear Factor publicly because the show’s animals were killed or injured for entertainment (2012b). Some people have doubted the credibility of the AHA to monitor film sets properly (2012b). The Cons Exotic Animals in Entertainment

Some people consider exotic animals dangerous to humans when they are mishandled, mistreated, or if the animal is in an unfamiliar location. Animal rights organizations oppose the use of exotic animals in the entertainment industry for numerous reasons besides the fact exotic animals pose a dangerous threat to humans. Problems have arisen from the conflicts between the animal rights organizations and the entertainment industry, increasing public awareness. However, no black and white answer exists when exotic animals are involved in the entertainment industry and problems occur. Animals do not exist to entertain humans. When exotic animals are in captivity they are not in their natural environment which can cause stress and confusion for the animal. They may not receive the adequate care they need because some animals are circus animals and they spend eleven moths traveling and performing (PETA, 2012). Exotic animals are often forced to perform unnatural behaviors resulting with the trainer beating them into submission when they refuse to perform a trick. Physical punishment was the standard training method until recently when affectionate training was introduced.

Former Ringling Bros and other circus employees reported elephants were beaten with bullhooks to perform tricks (2012). Physical punishment can cause animals to retaliate when constantly scared or abused as in case of two elephants named Flora and Janet (2012). The elephants were treated cruelly and they snapped injuring people and destroying objects and property (2012). Exotic animals are still wild and dangerous even when bred in captivity and when mishandled tragedies occur. Organizations such as People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Born Free USA want to ban exotic animals in the entertainment industry. Both organizations are nonprofit groups with supportive members from all over the world. PETA has the largest member base with over three million animal activists while Born Free USA has under a million members. The organizations have strong beliefs and are committed to their beliefs. The organizations will use anything at their disposal such as media, internet, and public demonstrations to topple the entertainment industry because of the welfare of animals.In order for the organizations to gain the support from the public they primarily use ethical and moral reasons. PETA has guidelines to discourage the use of animals in the entertainment industry on their website. 1. Protest against entertainment platforms which use animals. 2. Education is the key to fight the entertainment industry which uses exotic animals for performances and then sharing what you have learned with friends and family makes a difference. Boycott entertainment industries which use animals. 3. Visit a reputable sanctuary rather than a zoo whose primary concern is profits. 4. Look for animal abuse in your community and when animal abuse is observed pass out PETA pamphlets. 5. Form a group with friends or local activists in order to inform your neighborhood and community about animal abuse and cruelty in the entertainment industry. PETA believes if enough people follow the guidelines the entertainment platforms which use animals will be toppled.

Born Free USA focuses on banning exotic animals as pets. The organization has come to the conclusion of the three reasons why the United States government should ban the private possession of exotic animals. 1. Public safety because across the United States exotic animals owned privately have attacked, bitten, and killed people. 2. Public health because many wild animals carry diseases such as Herpes B, Ebola, Virus, Monkey Pox, and Salmonellosis. Monkey Pox is the only contagious disease not to have killed a human (CDC, 2011). 3. Animal cruelty because some owners try to change the behavior of exotic animals. The animals require certain necessities which some owners are unable to satisfy such as special care, housing, and diet. The negative result of private ownership of exotic animals leads them to be euthanized, abandoned, or left to suffer in horrible conditions (Born Free, 2012). Circuses project themselves to the public as spectacular, wondrous world full of fun, magic, and excitement – a place to go with family and friends to be astounded and amazed. Circuses evoke the image of clowns emerging from miniature cars, motorcycle daredevils, somersaulting acrobats, and much more.

They captivate their audiences for hours with their spectacular stunts and audience would be cheering for more entertainment. Exotic animals also perform tricks such as an elephant dressed in a colorful and bright outfit balancing on one leg or a tiger jumping through hoops. Circuses are supposed to harmless and fun entertainment; however behind the scenes of some circuses treacherous acts causing only pain and suffering. Animals are unable to ask for help and some circus animals only know pain and suffering. They live in unstable environments spending ninety-five percent of their life tethered in the circus or confined (Circuses, n.d.). Some circuses obtain their animals by taking them from their natural habitats such as the circus elephant, Anne. Anne was taken from the forest of Sir Lanka at the age of five and has been performing for the Bobby Roberts Super Circus for a long time (n.d.).

She was diagnosed with severe arthritis and continued to be forced to perform circus tricks for audiences. Anne no longer has any companions to keep her company because they have died of old age leaving her to die alone miserably because her owner refuses to release her to a caring sanctuary (n.d). Trainers will resort to physical punishment to force the animals to perform tricks. Mary Chipperfield was a British animal trainer charged with twenty-one counts of animal cruelty in 1999 and her husband, Roger Cawley was charged with seven counts of animal cruelty(ADI, 2006).

Chipperfield was fined an estimate of fifteen grand and her husband was charged with an estimate of one grand (2006). Following the trials their son was mauled by a tiger in Florida and an employee’s hand was bitten off by an animal at a training center (2006). Animal rights activists and organizations followed the case and were disappointed with the penalties imposed on the couple because they wanted the couple’s dangerous animals act license (DWAA) removed permanently. The couple’s license was eventually evoked and the couple was forced to sell a majority of their animals to zoos (2006). The couple’s children are involved in the animal entertainment industry and activists are worried they too will abuse animals because their parents were not good role models (2006). The Pros of Exotic Animals in Entertainment

The exotic animal industry is not completely negative because positive outcomes are also achieved. In general the public receives more negative news about exotic animals because positive news does not typically receive front page in newspapers. The industry promotes awareness to the public about exotic animals in movies, live performances, zoos, and television shows. Trainers do not always treat their animals inhumanely although animal activists like to portray all trainers and owners as treating their animals cruelly. When working with exotic animals people learn from them and they can learn life values such as compassion. Trainers do exist who believe working with wild and dangerous animals can provide people with fun and exciting entertainment. The public is entertained while the trainer can earn a living working beside a majestic animal and the trainers are passionate about their animals. They provide their animals with the best care and veterinary treatment and they make a profit from a career they love. Through trainers the audience learns about the animals and comes to appreciate and cherish the species they are watching. Ralph Helfer uses affectionate training and Mebel Stark used affectionate training while she was still alive.

Ralph Helfer is a well-known Hollywood animal behaviorist who believes in using affectionate training while working with animals (Helfer, 2006, about the author). He is a producer, director, lecturer, and author. The method he uses to train animals is with kindness rather than physical punishment and so far Ralph has never had an animal he raised injure anyone. Ralph was in his late teens when he realized physical punishment of wild animals did not work when he was mauled by a lion another trainer owned when he was a stuntman (8). He was the first to be known for affectionate training and had a successful career. Mabel Stark had a prominent career when she was young and she loved her big cats. She used an uncommon training method and was able to train her animals with affection rather than violence and threats (45-46). As she aged her colleagues found the opportunity to ruin her career because they were jealous of how she made animal training look easy (45-46). Her colleagues believed wild animals could only be tamed through violence. Rumors spread in the community and her license was pulled because the insurance company believed she was a risk.

The owner of the big cats she trained decided they would be broke in by another trainer and Mabel was unable to bear the fate of her cats. She committed suicide at her home (45-46). Steven Kendall promotes the use of exotic animals in circuses, movies, television, live performances, and zoos. Kendall is an extremist and he has investigated the entertainment industry and animal rights organizations for fourteen years (Kendell, 2004, 7). He concluded animal rights organization such as PETA will use everything at their disposal to trick the public in seeing circuses, zoos, television, movies, and live performances as evil if they use animals (8). He discovered PETA will edit videos by piecing together video footage captured from several location and time periods to create an illusion (44). They create the illusion in order to promote a bad public image.

He also discovered PETA and other organizations will pay people to protest even though the person does not care about animal welfare or the organization’s goals (44). The donations made to the organizations are not always stated as to how they were used which can cause mistrust when published (41). Humans have the power of choice and the ability to act upon their choices; however, the choices may not always be the right decisions because humans are imperfect beings. Humans will often refuse to listen to another story believing the story they know to be the only truth and the only fact. Humans are unaware the exotic animal industry consists of just not one choice or story but many. Researching an organizations history can clarify any doubts that education is the key to success. Educating yourself can help you make the right choice so you can be proud of them. Opinions and decisions about exotic animals in the entertainment industry should not be made without considering moral, ethics, and facts.


Animal Defenders International (ADI). . (10 January 2006). The Mary Chipperfield trial: Background. Retrieved November 14, 2012, from http://www.ad-international.org/animals_in_entertainment/go.php?id=233&ssi=10 Born Free USA. (2012). A life sentence: The sad and dangerous realities of exotic animals in private hands. Retrieved November 7, 2012, from http://www.bornfreeusa.org/a3b_exotic_pets.php Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2011a). B Virus (herpes B, monkey B virus, herpesvirus simiae, and herpesvirus B). Retrieved November 7, 2012, from http://www.cdc.gov/herpesbvirus/index.html CDC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2011b). Ebola hemorrhagic fever. Retrieved November 7, 2012. , from http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/spb/mnpages/dispages/ebola.htm Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2011c). Monkeypox. Retrieved November 7, 2012, from http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/monkeypox/ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2011d). Salmonellosis. Retrieved November 7, 2012, from

http://www.cdc.gov/nczved/divisions/dfbmd/diseases/salmonellosis/ Circus. (2011). Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, 1. Retrieved date November 7, 2012, from

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