I have been half following a thread on another circus blog for a couple weeks. It started as an innocent trip to the zoo, and has now become a debate on the emotions of animals. I know.....what is there to debate...
The alleged facts brought to the table come from an article posted in a newspaper about a book written by Jonathan Balcombe named "Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good". I have since ordered the book (got it at a steal for $5.39 used from amazon) only so I can make it my life's work to discredit this nonsense.
Five years ago behaviorist and animal-rights activist Dr. Jonathan Balcombe stood on a Virginia hotel balcony watching two crows intimately groom each other in the comfort of an abandoned billboard. He felt that the birds liked what they were doing, even if engaged in a natural, beneficial act, such as picking parasites off the other's feathers. That moment changed the way he would view animals forever.
If this was his motivation for writing the book....It shouldn't take long to discredit it. This is called STIMULUS-RESPONSE moron!!! It was noted a century or so back in time.
What this debate has actually taught me is that animal training is a science, and has been refined over the years with the help of people who actually studied Animal Behavior. Or.. should I say, animal training in alot of fields besides the Circus. Yes folks, we are but Witchdoctors surrounded by heart surgeons now. Marine Mammal trainers, Professional Horse trainers, Zoo Keepers, they spent their time writing down facts and looking for answers, while we were cutting up jack pots and telling each other how great we were and how bad everyone else was. This does not apply, obviously, to all circus trainers (there are some greats who truly understood animal thought process) but alot. The sad part of this is we had a head start on most other forms of training. We should be ashamed we are not further ahead now! Years of telling the next person "stand here and do this with the whip, and the horse will do this" instead of knowing and explaining the "why" the horse is doing what it is doing. I swear I am starting to think Circus started believing its own hype when it comes to animal training. Put away the hack saws please, and read a book on how to use a scalpel correctly.
You watch every move, call it sleight of hand,
You know it's what I do and never what I am,
It started on the street with cards and dollar bills,
Shuffling my feet, I never could be still