PAWS Magazine

Issue 44, Winter 2000

From the Heart

Like so many people, I never liked the circus as a child, but I never knew why. Growing up in Paris, I always loved animals - all my school pictures show me holding a little dog in my arms. But there was something about the circus...something about the whips, the animals in costumes, the cages...

It wasn’t until years later that I understood why the circus gave me such a queasy feeling. The milieu degrades the animals, and in the process, demeans us all.

Although I’ve been involved in all kinds of campaigns to help animals, there’s a special spot in my heart for circus animals. I know a lot of you share my feelings. Anyone who’s gone behind the scenes at the circus can attest to the terrible conditions endured by these poor animals. Anyone who’s looked into the expressive (and sad!) eyes of a circus elephant knows what I am talking about.

For years, PAWS has campaigned vigorously against the use of animals in entertainment. In 1999, that hard work started paying off.

Thanks, in part, to the efforts of an all-volunteer local group to which I also belong, Citizens for Cruelty-Free Entertainment, and several other groups, including the Animal Protection Institute and Northwest Animal Rights Network, Redmond became the first city in this area to ban exotic animal acts. By the time you read this, The Seattle City Council should have voted on an ordinance to end the use of exotic animals on city-owned and city-operated property.

We could not have gotten this far without the help and support of many committed activists. Every single positive action on behalf of animals makes a difference - no matter what it is. I encourage you to get more involved, whether it’s letter-writing, lobbying, raising money, lecturing, gathering signatures, whatever you are good at, whatever you enjoy doing.

When I first “discovered” animal rights after reading about the horrifying baby harp seal slaughter in the 1970s, I felt physically ill and helpless until I took action. I called the NYT and pleaded with them to report on the slaughter. I felt much better, I had spoken out. And eventually, we put an end to that hunt, at least for a good number of years. That was the beginning of a new chapter in my life, one devoted to animals.

Although fighting animal cruelty can be challenging at times, it’s also tremendously rewarding and enriching. With so many of us searching for meaning in our lives, this is one activity that really will help make the world a better place.

In my heart, I know the animals would thank us if they could.

Claudine Erlandson, PAWS Board Member

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