Should I Feel Guilty for Taking My Kids to the Circus?

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circusA few weeks ago, I received press tickets to Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. My kids were thrilled, we had an OK time (ruined more by my children's meltdowns than anything to do with the circus), and we were all impressed by the daring feats of strength and will. But then I started to hear about how circus animals are treated and I started to feel horrifically guilty.

Animal rights activists describe circus animals with teeth broken from constantly gnawing on their cages. The say some of the exotic animals get infected feet from standing in their own excrement for extended periods of time. Fabulous.

It isn't the part of the show I want the kids to know about when they're exclaiming over elephants and loving the tiger show. On the other hand, we do a lot of things that are less than kind and I am not exactly a lover of the PETA mentality. So what's a good mom to do?

Well, the first thing to do is research, obviously. Is this true? There are many PETA-like sites that say it's true and many lawsuits alleging it. But this animal cruelty charge doesn't seem to be covered by major investigative journalists. So, if it's true, it isn't being well publicized. Also, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus denies it.

Obviously no one is going to admit to abuse, but the message to me is this: Until something is proven to me and I can no longer see any doubt that it's true, then I will do what I want, and if that means going to the circus, then that's what it means. As far as I am concerned, PETA isn't a credible source. I hate them so much that if they back a cause, I might even choose to do the opposite just because they're so awful.

But PETA isn't the point. Really, this is more about the choices we make for our kids and outside influences. There will always be a reason not to use disposable diapers or take our kids to the zoo or feed them non-organic strawberries or too much sugar.

Of course, these things give me pause and I wonder and I research, but to the best of my knowledge, it's OK to take my kids to the circus. They had fun. I had fun and the whole thing was a good night.

If later I find out that PETA was right, I will probably stop going. But until The New York Times covers actual abuse, I am going with tradition and fun.

Do you ever feel guilty about things you do with your kids?


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