Download e-book for iPad: Wild and Dangerous Performances: Animals, Emotions, Circus by Peta Tait (auth.)

By Peta Tait (auth.)

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This seminal book, which presents humane rights as a form of social progress, mentions only menagerie wild animals; but it points out that claims to the effect that they ‘enjoy captivity’ were ‘absurd’ (1980: 49–50). One nineteenth-century argument for the fair treatment of other animals was the assertion of a higher position for humans, within a moral universe that expected them to demonstrate benevolence towards the lower orders. Humans had to behave accordingly to uphold this moral order. But Salt is arguing on behalf of all animals and against zoo-like displays that condemn even elephants to ‘useless and deadening imbecility’, allowing human liberty to take precedence over animal liberty, as if animals were ‘devoid of moral purpose and individuality’ (1980: 52).

Bacterial infection from claw wounds was a serious risk for trainers and continued to be well into the twentieth century. In training an elephant, Frank explains that the first requirement was to teach him or her to walk around the ring without running away Calm Patience and Pyramid Poses Figure 1 23 ‘Frank Bostock and his Eight Lions’ ( c courtesy of British Library) (Bostock 1903: 171). Making an elephant lie down involved pulling him or her down with ropes (1903: 168). Conditioning one to balance on his or her hind legs was done by pulling up the front legs with a rope at least 16 times before the trick was ingrained (1903: 168).

More importantly, Frank, like Carl, had access to groups of menagerie animals to select from for training. Although a precise chronology of invention is difficult to ascertain, Frank and acts under his management contributed to the foundational training in complex feats in the decade in which Hagenbeck’s developed their first trained acts. Bostock’s ‘Animal Shows’, however, presented animals that moved more in the space. Among the protégé trainers working for Frank was Captain Bonavita (John Gentrer) who by 1900 was greatly admired for his physical control of a record number of 27 lions (Bostock 1903; Roth 1941; Turner 2000: 12; Tait forthcoming).

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