The issue of animal rights within the realm of ethical studies has been of great significance during the last several decades. The application of philosophical theories and principles to the issue of animals’ rights is becoming increasingly important in the modern world, where the interests of all species are being considered as ethically relevant. The article by Richard Pérez-Peña “Elephants to Retire From Ringling Brothers Stage” was published in The New York Times and delivers the news story about the Ringling Brothers Circus freeing the elephants.
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Such a momentous decision is a result of long-lasting disputes and now has triggered more discussions in the circles of animal rights organizations. The problem of the way different animals are treated in circuses might be applied with such concepts and theories as speciesism, anthropocentrism, anthropomorphism, and equal consideration of interests.
The dispute between the circus owners and animal rights activists has been going on for many decades. The core of their disagreement is in the way the animals are treated in the circuses for training purposes. The transparency, which is a common thing in the modern world driven by easy access to information, enables people to see how the animals are treated in circuses. On the one hand, animal rights activists state that cruelty and brutality are the critical elements in elephant training.
On the other hand, the circus owners and animal trainers argue that the use of sticks and other equipment is justified by the importance of discipline and human safety (Pérez-Peña). Besides the cruel treatment of animals, other species are exposed to physical control, stress from continuous traveling, and separation from their families when they are babies. All these issues are used by different animal protection organizations to fight for the rights of the species trapped in the entertainment business.
According to the theory of speciesism, different animals are treated unequally with privileges given to certain species. As the article by Pérez-Peña demonstrates, this theory has been an influential part of the conflict between the circus owners and animal rights protectors. Indeed, many countries have enacted special legal documents forbidding the use of wild animals for entertainment, including holding them in a circus environment.
However, the elephants are vastly used in American circuses because they are differentiated from other species. As it is discussed in the article, Asian elephants are not regarded as “fully wild, because people have put them to work for millenniums” (Pérez-Peña par. 11). It is unethical to apply such blurred terms as “not fully wild” to separate one species from the others. Speciesism implies inherent inequality among animals and exposes some of them to a hostile living environment and physical suffering under the cruel treatment in circuses.
The overall basis of circus owners’ argument deals with anthropocentrism that places a human at the center of everything. From this point of view, animals are treated as a supplement to entertaining human life and are not attributed to any rights. Since people have more access to information about the real conditions of animals’ being in the circus facilities, how they travel, and how they suffer when trained, the number of strikes increases.
The increased public’s opposition to circuses’ usage of animals, including elephants, complicates the work of the circuses, such as Ringling Brothers. Consequently, the anthropocentric approach prevails even in the decision-making process when the company decided to retire its elephants, calling it “purely a business decision” (Pérez-Peña par. 6). Thus, even in the circumstances of the rising importance of animal rights, business owners adhere to the principles of anthropocentrism.
However, the rise of research on animals’ experiences has provided a scope of ideas contributing to the protection of animal rights. The theory of anthropomorphism is at the center of such investigation since the experiences animals have are perceived from the point of view of their similarities and differences of those humans have. In other words, animals are treated via the reflection of human feelings and experiences, thus entitled to be applied with the same ethical considerations as humans. From this perspective, the elephants that are kept in hostile conditions in circuses are exposed to stress, suffering, emotional pain, physical injuries, and lack of freedom just as humans would be.
At the same time, it is imperative to provide equal rights for all animals. It is impossible to do under the guidance of speciesism, but equal consideration of interests provides such an opportunity. It is one of the philosophical, theoretical bases that might help in further resolving of disputes considering animal rights. In their attempts to protect animals, people need to prioritize the interests animals have without reasoning. However, the example of elephants’ retirement for the Ringling Brothers stage shows that it takes a lot of precise consideration, reasoning, and disputes to make a change in the ethical treatment of animals.
In conclusion, the news article about the retirement of animals from a circus implies a considerable shift in the perception of animal rights by the modern entertainment business. However, at the same time, it demonstrates the ambiguity in the application of basic philosophical concepts to the resolution of the problem. While animals are being treated from the perspective of anthropocentrism, anthropomorphism, and speciesism, equal consideration of interests fails to apply. It is vital to prioritize animals’ interests to ensure the preservation of their ethical rights.
Pérez-Peña, Richard. “Elephants to Retire From Ringling Brothers Stage.” The New York Times. 2015. Web.