Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus’ appearance in Grand Rapids, Michigan in early October was marked by the unfortunate death of a horse and vandalism of the arena the circus appeared at as well as of circus property.
A 14-year-old palomino gelding died after it was charged by a stallion while the horses were being unloaded from a train. According to the Grand Rapids Press, an autopsy showed that the palomino suffered a ruptured vena cava blood vessel from the stallion’s charge.
That didn’t stop People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals from asking Kent County Animal Control to investigate the death and the circus further for possible animal welfare violations. The agency declined to pursue such an investigation. Sarah Houwerzyl, kennel supervisor for the Kent County Health Department animal shelter, told the Grand Rapid Press,
We can do one [an investigation] if we feel it’s necessary, but I don’t see any reason for it in this situation. It seems to be a very unusual thing and, by and large, circuses take good care of their animals because they know they’re intensely scrutinized and they know the stakes in it.
The Grand Rapids Press noted that Houwerzyl did perform a routine inspection of the animals and found no problems.
After the circus finished its run, Grand Rapids Police officials called in the FBI to investigate acts of vandalism directed at the circus and the Van Andel Arena where the circus performed. According to the Grand Rapids Press, a glass door and two parking booths at the arena were damaged and graffiti was painted on the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The Michigan Independent Media Center site contained a message purportedly from those who committed the vandalism which read,
Animals in their Cages
Sleep, Eat, Pace, Eat, Sleep
For a real circus
you look at the audience
In Grand Rapids, MI Saturday October 2nd, a group of concerned humanimals acted instinctively, but not without premeditation, to expose the oppression of once wild beings who are now caged, starved, taunted, rode, beaten and otherwise forced into obedience by the slaveholders that are the circus and its trainers.
The tired old tactics of humanitarian pacifism has lost its bite, that is why we chose property destruction, because it hurts. You can’t argue naturalness, respect and compassion to those whose heart is a wallet and the depth of their conscience is synonymous with the depth of their bank accounts. Bite deep, lock your jaw and they might feel entrapped.
We backed up toilets with sponge, superglued locks, etched circus truck windows, and smashed windows in Van Andel, and painted circus traincars. All agents in animal imprisonment and torture are appropriate targets and Van Andel is no exception. Maybe they will think twice before hosting a violent circus of slaves.
GRPD and FBI investigating circus vandalism case. Wood TV 8, October 2004.
Animal control officials see no abuse in circus horse’s death. Nate Reens and Sue Merrell, The Grand Rapids Press, October 2, 2004.