I photographed at a circus in France two weeks ago, for the animal advocacy group One Voice.
I hadn't attended one in a while. I was shocked, anew, with the degradation the animals suffer, and the pleasure the trainers take in the domination. And yet below the surface, their smiles look tired. It's like their mouths are smiling but not their eyes. They are tired of it, perhaps. These ridiculous acts. I wonder how much longer these sorts of archaic sideshows can last. The audience barely clapped during the animal performances, as the men slapped animals on the face with sticks and snapped the whip to make them move. The lions, overweight from a life immobile in small cages, "perform" grudgingly. They lean over and groom one another. They yawn. They growl when the trainer comes close. Often, they swipe at the trainer, hissing, angry, ears flat. The show of dominance is tired. Circuses: listen. The animal performances are tired. You look like fools in your sequins and your whips. Your finale ends with you facing the audience, your arms outstretched, in expectation of applause. They applauded politely. You look ridiculous, nodding and smiling and winking.
Photo: JMcArthur / One Voice