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Speaking out to defend animals

July 22, 2012
The Herald-Star

To the editor:

What a difference just 48 hours can make. I was vaguely aware that Steubenville's Grand Theater Restoration Committee planned to bring a circus to town. On July 5, I found out that it was the Carson and Barnes Circus, which has a questionable reputation, colored by many allegations of animal abuse, plus numerous citations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

As someone involved in animal welfare issues for more than a decade, I tried to find a way to speak out, but decided to wait for the right time, out of respect for the Grand Theater committee and its leader, Scott Dressel. Circus performances were July 9, and pictures were posted on social media sites the next day. It was then I found I wasn't alone in my disappointment over this event, as someone else began posting similar concerns to a theater committee member. I joined in, not to criticize, but to ask for a meeting to talk about the issues, should the committee consider bringing the circus back next year. We wanted to offer family friendly alternatives.

Sadly, the response was negative and derogatory, and one committee member proclaimed the circus would be back and said, "no one cares." I knew in my heart that wasn't the case, so the call went out on social media for local folks to express their feelings. Talk about mobilization. The comments came faster than I could keep up with them, and less than 48 hours from when the effort began, Dressel formally announced the Grand Theater committee would not utilize an animal circus to raise funds again. I commend Dressel for his courage and willingness to consider the evidence we brought to him about this circus, and he can now be counted among those who say no to animal abuse and exploitation.

If you want to know more, do an Internet search for Carson and Barnes circus, but also visit and become a supporter of the Grand Theater restoration project. It is said an elephant never forgets, and those who showed the Grand Theater committee how they feel won't forget either. Scott, thank you for your open mind and your desire not to enable those who profit from the suffering of animals. And thank you to everyone in the Ohio Valley who spoke up in defense of those who can't defend themselves. "Power to the people" may be an overused cliche from the 1960s, but it certainly applies in this case.

Marjie Defede


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