Petition challenges coming circus act

By Allison Krecek

Some students and faculty are hoping a petition could stop an upcoming circus show at the Convocation Center.

Anthropology assistant professor Mitch Irwin created a petition to “Cancel the ‘Circus Spectacular’ scheduled for March 4” because it features animal performers. By Tuesday night, more than 780 people had signed the petition on The circus is set for a 7 p.m. March 4 appearance.

Despite the controversy, a spokeswoman from the circus said its animals are well-cared for.

“I created the petition because I wanted to express the idea that I kind of feel that it’s an unacceptable thing to host,” Irwin said. “I think it reflects bad on the university in this day and age. I think it’s kind of a last century kind of ideal.”

Irwin, who has worked with animals professionally, said it’s not fair for the animals to perform.

“I feel … when we treat animals cruelly I think it’s not ethically, morally defensible now that we know how much they suffer,” Irwin said.

Circus Spectacular spokeswoman Ashley Hawkins said the circus’ animals do not suffer.

“We take care of our animals, and we don’t believe in mistreating the animals at all,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins said Circus Spectacular follows recommendations from the American Humane Society when taking care of the animals. This includes keeping the animals well fed and making sure they have enough space.

Still, Michael Wilson, senior mass media productions major, said animals have been abused at circuses, which is why he signed the petition.

“It’s just hard to wrap my mind around being an animal and having to be shoved into a truck and being transported around the country just to be gawked at,” Wilson said.

Similarly, freshman nursing major Justice Blythe, who signed the petition, said circuses do not have the proper tools to take care of wild animals.

“I would want the circus to be canceled because of the animals and the show,” Blythe said. “I think the petition would help because it would prevent people from buying tickets, at least to this show.”

Hawkins said Circus Spectacular would never make its animals do anything harmful or dangerous.

“We use verbal cues; we do not use any kind of violence against the animals. They’re basically part of our family,” Hawkins said.

Irwin said the petition will show NIU that having the Circus Spectacular perform is not supported by all staff and students.

“… I feel the university really belongs to the students, the staff and faculty who work and the alumni, and if a few people in [a] position of power made the choice that this is an acceptable thing than I think that we need to show them in numbers that a lot of us disagree,” Irwin said.