animal rights activists gath-
ered outside the Skydome last Saturday while the Garden Brothers Circus carried on inside with acts the protestors say are unnatural, degrading and abusive to animals.
"Elephants don't belong on balls, and tigers don't naturally jump through hoops of fire," says Suzanne Lahaie, co-founder of Freedom for Animals.
She says animals that sway back and forth, pace or cower with their ears back are showing signs of abuse. "They know when they see these trainers coming toward them that they'd better perform," says Lahaie, who's also calling on the city to reinstate a 1992 law that banned animal circuses in Toronto.
Alissa Zilio, director of operations for Garden Brothers Circus, dismisses any suggestion that their four-legged attractions are anything but happy campers. For example, no whips are used in training. "We use a reward system. We give them a little treat, kind of like with a puppy."
And the animals are cared for around the clock: "They get fed pretty much all day long. Three big meals a day. They're spoiled rotten."
Yet according to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, elephants in captivity can spend up to 95 per cent of their lives in chains.
"You have to ask, with an elephant, how you get one from town to town in a humane way -- so that it gets enough exercise, it's emotionally looked after and it's not stressed," says PETA's Dave Marshall.
So did circus-goers get it? "At least more than half are taking the literature, so maybe they'll think about it and next time choose a circus that doesn't use animals," says Jean Blais Mathieu, out to distribute leaflets.
But when he tries to give a pamphlet to a man leaving the circus, he's told, "If I had a club, I'd beat you with it, too." No doubt an activist's work is never done.