It’s funny how we change as we get older and see more of the world. The views we had change, the things that never bothered us are suddenly deal breakers, and we start to see a fuller picture than we realized was ever there.
I remember as a kid how much I loved the circus. I loved the sounds, the smells, and the excitement. I loved going and getting the autographs of the clowns, and how the entirety of the experience was so strange and exotic. As I got older I seemed to age out of it all a little and just wasn’t as into it. Then I was an adult and saw it with new eyes.
I hated seeing how the animals were treated.
Hated how false everything felt.
I couldn’t help but wonder how these folks all lived, and if they were happy or they just didn’t know how else to make a living.
This isn’t some sort of grand judgment or pronunciation of the inherent evil of circuses but more that I realized that what I was seeing made me uncomfortable. Part of that was that the acts of derring disturbed me. Yeah, it’s super exciting to see people doing things without a net or in an enclosed space but I don’t need someone to die or be permanently damaged to entertain me.
I just don’t.
It’s funny that I had never had an interest in the ‘cirque’ sort of performances but then I saw one at a local theater and it was amazing. There were still things that appeared dangerous but none of them made me feel like someone was putting themselves in harm’s way for my entertainment, and that was fine.
I preferred it.
I wanted to be entertained, not worried about someone’s safety or the health of the animals.
I had a similar feeling as we took our daughter to a local county fair this weekend. I had a craving for fair food and needed to get away after a week that was hard to put it mildly. We all needed a break.
We headed out to the fair to get out of the house and to get some fair food and to let our daughter see some animals.
Lots of people.
Lots of noise.
It was a fair.
As we headed towards the animals and into each area though, a dawning realization came to me that I hadn’t grappled with before – I don’t like being around animals in captivity. I don’t like animals being on display. Sure, it’s easy to say that when I am still eating meat, but I think it’s the lack of dignity of it all – again realty v. perception here – that upsets me. Many of the animals looked underfed. Some of them looked as if they were not being housed well. Some seemed as if they may not have been treated well. I can’t know, I can’t be sure – these were animals that were being cared for through the 4-H programs so I wouldn’t think they’d be mistreated, but the perception was that these animals were not all well and that disturbed me. Beyond that there was that uneasy feeling that these animals had no dignity. Especially since many were just work animals or were there to be purchased for slaughter.
Heck, that animals were in enclosed spaces surrounded by people, during the summer heat, and with folks touching and petting them whether they should or not was too much for me.
Happily, my wife agreed and we didn’t bother looking at the rest of the animals.
Our daughter never saw that, she just saw horsies, and duckies, and moo-cows, and goats, and the rest, but we saw it.
We knew it.
And it was too much.
Does any of this change me as a person? Does it change what I do?
But I’ll avoid going to places and doing things that support things I don’t agree with. I will honor my own unease. We may get our daughter involved in 4-H as she gets older, wanting her to get some of that background if she’d like, but only if it’s good for her. Only if it’s honoring the animals and not mistreating them.
Maybe I am just a bleeding heart liberal who can’t take reality.
Maybe I am terrible for continuing to be a meat-eater.
Or maybe I will just tr yto not support things that remove the dignity of a thing, no matter what sort of animal it is, because that’s the very least we can offer these creatures.
The very least.
And maybe I’ll just honor myself enough to appreciate that I need to know my limits.
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