An historic bill introduced in Congress today could finally put a stop to the cruel practice of using captive animals in circuses. The Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act (TEAPA), introduced by animal welfare advocate Representative Jim Moran, would make it illegal to feature exotic or wild animals in the cramped, unsafe and inevitably distressing conditions of traveling performance shows, which by nature subject animals to pain.
"From video and photographic evidence, it's clear that traveling circuses aren't providing the proper living conditions for exotic animals," Moran said in a statement. "The mounting evidence of inhumane treatment and the growing public concern for these animals demands that we reconsider what are appropriate living conditions for these intelligent, social creatures."
According to Animal Defenders International, which worked in conjunction with Moran to craft the legislation, the restrictive facilities in which exotic animals are forced to perform also host devastating cruelty. ADI estimates that approximately 300 wild animals tour the U.S. with circuses and nearly all of them suffer from abuse.
"[With] this bill, the U.S. joins almost 30 countries across the world that have taken action to end [animals'] suffering," said ADI director Jan Creamer. "Our investigations have shown that violence to control animals is part of circus culture; animals are beaten, whipped and electric shocked to make them perform tricks. This brutality has no place in modern society."
In addition to receiving support from ADI, TEAPA is also backed by a number of other animal welfare advocates who oppose the rampant cruelty endemic to circus animals' lives. Celebrities from legendary television host Bob Barker to Sir Paul McCartney have come out in favor of outlawing circus animal captivity, but there's still a long way to go before Moran's bill goes into effect.
Having just been introduced, TEAPA will go through committee and future rounds of congressional scrutiny before it's passed -- but you can help it along the way. Make a point to write your congressional representative and urge him or her to stop cruelty to animals and ban their inclusion in traveling circuses.
"The thing that needs to be done next is for members of the public to get onto their member of Congress," said Jan Creamer. "People feel tired of it, but it does make a difference. If members of Congress believe their constituents are supporting the bill, they will push it through. It needs public support."