The performer and comedian Steve-O had his first real brush with captive wild animals while he was attending Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, an odd place for a future animal activist to start out. But it gave him an inside look at the way people who keep animals for profit think.
"When doing press to promote shows, the clowns get asked about their opinion on animal abuse in the circus," he told The Dodo. "It got really awkward when they'd ask. We were told by the publicity department, ‘You have no opinion! You shut up, and you stand down, you're a clown!'"
A spokesperson for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus denied this, saying, "We encourage people [performers] to talk about our animal care and what they see every day. We're very proud of our animal care."
Later, when he began working as a clown in a different circus, he was told to stay away from the elephants, and he watched as the circus' only tiger was carted from a small cage to an even smaller box every night for a magic act. Still, Steve-O (also known as Stephen Glover) was told not to speak to the media about the animals, "not to even look at them," he said.