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"No Circus Without Animals"?: Animal Acts And Ideology In The Virtual Circus

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Chapter Summary

In consumer capitalist economies where animal practices are highly industrialized, it is still, legally and socially acceptable to use performing animals, and circuses and circus lobby groups portray their human-animal relations positively. This chapter illustrates the controversy over ‘exotic’ animal acts, and examines its influence on the self-portrayal and marketing rhetoric of circuses, as well as on their representations of animals and animal performances. It aims to show how this imagery is challenged by animal rights and welfare groups, such as the global animal advocacy organization 'People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' (PETA) and the New Zealand organization 'Save Animals From Exploitation' (SAFE). The chapter proposes that images of circus animals provided by animal advocacy organizations are no different from what the audiences actually see, when they visit the menagerie backstage. Finally, the chapter discusses whether this debate contributes to a perceptible shift in cultural attitudes towards human-animal relations.

Keywords: animal acts; exotic animal acts; human-animal relations; PETA; Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE); virtual circus



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