“There Is No Wild”

Conservation and Circus Discourse

In: Society & Animals

This paper documents the discourse used by contemporary circuses to justify their exploitation of nonhuman animals. The circus is undergoing redefinition due to cultural changes, animal welfare concerns, and political legislation. Critical Discourse Analysis is applied to a sample of articles (N = 128) on animals in circuses published in us newspapers and magazines from 2007 to 2012. Analyses revealed that circus discourse attempts to (a) promote the circus as an ecologically important endeavor, (b) minimize the differences between human and nonhuman animals, (c) naturalize culturally induced behavior, (d) assert that captivity is preferable to the wild, and (e) collapse domesticity and wildness. These discursive strategies serve to legitimize, naturalize, and produce consent for the use of nonhuman animals in circuses. Furthermore, circus discourse conceptualizes nature and culture in ways that are ideologically significant and detrimental to the promotion of a conservation mindset.

  • AlwardL. WemmerC.ChristenC. A. Why circuses are unsuited to elephants Elephants and ethics 2008 Baltimore, MD The Johns Hopkins University Press 205 226

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • AndersonJ. Show goes on despite peta Baxter Bulletin 2007 October 3 A1

  • Anonymous Trial begins in the alleged abuse of circus elephants News India Times 2009 February 12 8

  • AriaJ. Great pride taken in care of animals Asheville Citizen-Times 2011 March 29 Opinion

  • ArrighiG. Political animals: Engagements with imperial and gender discourses in late-colonial Australian circuses Theatre Journal 2008 60 609 629

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Associated Press When Bolivian circus-animal ban goes into effect, where will the animals go? Los Angeles Times 2010 April 16 Retrieved November 3, 2012, from http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/unleashed/2010/04/when-bolivian-circus-animal-ban-goes-into-effect-where-will-the-animals-go.html.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BekoffM. KalofL.FitzgeraldA. Wild justice and fair play: Cooperation, forgiveness, and morality in animals The animals reader 2007 New York, NY Berg Publishers 72 90

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BelgardJ. peta protests circus’ treatment of animals The Town Talk 2008 November 19 A3

  • BergerJ. About looking 1980 New York, NY Pantheon Books

  • Born Free Ringling lawsuit 2011 Retrieved October 15, 2013, fromhttp://www.bornfreeusa.org/a1a6_ringling.php.

  • BouissacP. Poetics in the lion’s den: The circus act as a text Comparative Literature 1971 86 6 845 857

  • BouissacP. Circus as multimodal discourse 2012 London, United Kingdom Bloomsbury Academic

  • CarmeliY. S. Lion on display: Culture, nature, and totality in a circus performance Poetics Today 2003 24 1 65 90

  • DavisC. B. Cultural evolution and performance genres: Memetics in theatre history and performance studies Theatre Journal 2007 59 595 614

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • DesmondJ. C. Staging tourism: Bodies on display from Waikiki to Sea World 1999 Chicago, IL University of Chicago Press

  • DunayerJ. Animal equality: Language and liberation 2001 Derwood, MD Ryce

  • FaircloughN. Language and power 1989 London, United Kingdom Longman

  • FaircloughN. Discourse and social change 1993 Cambridge, United Kingdom Polity Press

  • FaircloughN. Media discourse 1995 London, United Kingdom Edward Arnold

  • FalkJ. H.ReinhardE. M.VernonC. L.BronnenkantK.DeansN. L.HeimlichJ. E. Why zoos and aquariums matter: Assessing the impact of a visit to a zoo or aquarium 2007 Silver Spring, MD American Zoo and Aquarium Association

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • FarnsworthM. J.CampbellJ.AdamsN. J. What’s in a name? Perceptions of stray and feral cat welfare and control in Aotearoa, New Zealand Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 2011 14 59 74

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • FennellD. A. Tourism and animal ethics 2012 London, United Kingdom Routledge

  • GlennC. Constructing consumables and consent: A critical analysis of factory farm industry discourse Journal of Communication Inquiry 2004 28 1 63 81

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • GoatlyA. The representation of nature on the bbc world service Text 2002 22 1 1 27

  • GoedekeT. L. In the eye of the beholder: Changing social perceptions of the Florida manatee Society & Animals 2004 12 2 99 116

  • HayesW. Circus comes to town The Town Talk 2007 January 4 A3

  • IossaG.SoulsburyC. D.HarrisS. Are wild animals suited to a travelling circus? Animal Welfare 2009 18 129 140

  • iucn iucn red list of threatened species 2013 Retrieved October 5, 2013, from www.iucnredlist.org.

  • JepsonJ. A linguistic analysis of discourse on the killing of nonhuman animals Society & Animals 2008 16 127 148

  • JohnsonW. The rose-tinted menagerie 1990 East Haven, CT Inland

  • KheelM. AdamsC.DonovanJ. License to kill: An ecofeminist critique of hunters’ discourse Animals and women: Feminist theoretical explanations 1995 Durham, NC Duke University Press 85 125

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • LeeJ. Should circus elephants be banned? New York Times 2009 March 26 Retrieved November 3, 2012, from http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/26/should-circus-elephants-be-banned/.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • LombrosoL. No whip for this cat trainer The Journal News 2008 February 15 K6

  • MalamudR. Reading zoos: Representations of animals in captivity 1998 New York, NY New York University Press

  • MarinoL.LilienfeldS. O.MalamudR.NobisN.BroglioR. Do zoos and aquariums promote attitude change in visitors? A critical evaluation of the American zoo and aquarium study.” Society & Animals 2010 18 126 138

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • McLendonG. Animal rights activists protest circus Rochester Democrat and Chronicle 2010 October 28

  • MerrittM. R. OjedaA. Circus animals are abused The rights of animals 2004 San Diego, CA Thompson Gale 161 165

  • MilesK. la circus protest by peta accuses Ringling Bros. of animal abuse The Huffington Post 2012 July 11 Retrieved November 3, 2012, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/11/la-circus-peta-protest-ringling-brothers-circus_n_1665249.html.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • MitchellL. Animals and the discourse of farming in southern Africa Society & Animals 2006 14 39 59

  • MitchellR. W.ThompsonN. S.MilesH. L. Anthropomorphism, anecdotes and animals 1997 Albany, NY State University of New York Press

  • NanceS. Entertaining elephants: Animal agency and the business of the American circus 2013 Baltimore, MD The Johns Hopkins University Press

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • NelsonD. The cruelest show on earth Mother Jones, November/December 2011 2011 48 57

  • O’ LearyJ. Three-ring circus heads to town Press-Citizen 2011 May 9 A3

  • OwenP. J. Disappearing elephants delight circus-goers: Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey entertains city Telegram & Gazette 2010 October 10 B1

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • PetersonM. The animal apparatus: From a theory of animal acting to an ethics of animal acts The Drama Review 2007 51 1 33 48

  • PottsA. Kiwis against possums: A critical analysis of anti-possum rhetoric in Aotearoa New Zealand Society & Animals 2009 17 1 20

  • RichJ. Circus fusion blast bringing thrills to Asheville’s Biltmore Square Mall Asheville Citizen-Times 2011 October 14

  • SchilloK. K. Critical perspectives of animal agriculture: Introduction Journal of Animal Science 2003 81 2880 2886

  • SchmittD. WemmerC.ChristenC. A. View from the big top Elephants and ethics 2008 Baltimore, MD The Johns Hopkins University Press 227 236

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • SchroepferK. K.RosatiA. G.ChartrandT.HareB. Use of “entertainment” chimpanzees in commercials distorts public perception regarding their conservation status plos one 2011 6 10 1 8

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • SchwalmT. SimmonsL.ArmstrongP. No circus without animals? Animal acts and ideology in the virtual circus Knowing animals 2007 Leiden, Netherlands Brill Publishing 79 104

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • SciglianoE. Love, war, and circuses: The age-old relationship between elephants and humans 2002 Boston, MA Houghton Mifflin

  • ShackleyM. L. Wildlife tourism 1996 London, United Kingdom International Thompson Business Press

  • SorensonJ. CastricanoJ. Monsters: The case of Marineland Animal subjects 2008 Waterloo, Canada Wilfrid Laurier University Press 195 222

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • StibbeA. Language, power, and the social construction of animals Society & Animals 2001 9 2 145 161

  • StibbeA. As charming as a pig: The discursive construction of the relationship between pigs and humans Society & Animals 2003 11 4 375 392

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • StibbeA. Deep ecology and language: The curtailed journey of the Atlantic salmon Society & Animals 2006 14 1 61 78

  • StokesJ. Lion griefs: The wild animal act as theatre New Theatre Quarterly 2004 20 2 138 154

  • TurnerR. The discursive construction of anthropocentrism Environmental Ethics 2009 31 183 201

  • VogelM. Gray matters Florida Trend 2007 50 9 110

  • WilsonD. A. H. Politics, press and the performing animals controversy in early twentieth-century Britain Anthrozoos 2008 21 4 317 337

  • wwf Protecting species 2013 Retrieved March 11, 2014, from http://worldwildlife.org/species.

  • YatesR. Language, power and speciesism Critical Society 2010 3 11 19

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 931 648 70
Full Text Views 304 51 9
PDF Downloads 37 19 0