If you were close to the Nock Circus at Plainpalais on Tuesday evening, you might have noticed a motley group of animal rights activists chalking the ground and passing out flyers. I was one of them. It was my first time taking part in any sort of "manifestation", but since I've been griping about not finding any other vegans in Geneva for a while, I figured I might as well bite the bullet and do my bit to support the cause. While I was apprehensive about going at first, it was actually quite peaceful and a very positive experience. And I did get to actually see a typical protest in progress - this answered some questions I'd had about what goes on at these events, and raised a whole lot more about what difference this makes, if any.
I was introduced to the Animal Liberation Group in Geneva by a fellow vegan from Lausanne I'd met online, who encouraged me to contact them. When I was informed there'd be a gathering at the Nock Circus, I seized the opportunity to finally meet some other real, live vegans for the first - and certainly not last - time in my life (unbelievable, eh?). I arrived fashionably late, by which time the chalking was already underway, and after a few awkward introductions (I'm really shy), I was encouraged to write something too, which caught me completely off-guard. I read what the others had written (in French): "The circus is not fun for animals"; "I'm sure they don't mind living in cages"; "Animal Parking Here"; "You should rather see a circus without animals"... and came up with my own lame tags: "Stop Animal Cruelty" and "Animals Deserve Dignity". All that crouching down to write does a number on the knees, I can tell you, and being a sort of rare vegan in that neither my sternum nor pelvis are readily visible, I gave up on the chalk rather quickly and admired my work from a much more comfortable upright position.
I spent the rest of the time observing and asking questions, the foremost on my mind was "what sort of reaction do you get?" Apparently, many of the passers-by, whether or not they're going to see the circus themselves, give a rather encouraging response to the protests, some even going as far as a thumbs-up. The people that I observed were no different. One man, however, stopped to actively argue, saying that he also had his "right" to watch the circus if he wanted, the animals were far better off living in the circus than in the jungle, and so on. Probably the same sort of thing you might be coming up with yourself, if you like the circus. Nothing we hadn't heard before. There wasn't really a confrontation, which I was glad of, because this is how I see it: it's just information. Everyone acts on it however they see fit, but what matters is that they have it - and that was what we were there for, to give them facts (detailed on the flyers) they might not have known beforehand. Some people declined the flyers, others handed them back with apparent disdain and contempt. The circus employees were stony-faced and certainly didn't want any flyers, but they face protests in pretty much every city they visit from activists, and were hardened veterans of this. I was disappointed, though, when one girl tried a bit too eagerly to give them a flyer: "It's just paper, it's not going to kill you!" Sure, she had a point. But still. I like subtlety.
Anyway, what I did find most interesting was the response from the children who were being taken to the circus. Part of our protest was to have one person don a bear suit (which you can see hanging on the barrier in the photo), and another dress as a circus performer, whipping the bear into submission. The kids who witnessed this were absolutely fascinated, and clustered around the performance as their parents tried vainly to pry them away so they could enter the circus. The children were rewarded with printouts of a clown drawing which they could color in at home, and they clutched these to their chests as they were taken away. Many of them, I was sure, would be asking their parents about this - and what I was also absolutely certain of was that they would not be told the whole truth. It's just the way things are.
In the end, though, all we could hope for was that we had provoked enough thought among circus-goers and passers-by that they would, sometime in the future, give some consideration to what exactly it was that happened to circus animals. How does a tiger go from roaming the jungle and terrorizing all in his wake to meekly riding a bike in front of hundreds of spectators? (Or whatever it is they do in the circus, I've never been to one and don't intend to). The training of animals to perform at circuses is fraught with extremely cruel practices. As with the ineffective ban on foie gras in Chicago (which was just repealed, so much for that) what should be targeted is not so much the producers (whose only concern is profit), but the consumers who vote with their dollars - there will be no supply without a proportionate demand. The managers of Nock (and Knie) can rest assured we're not targeting them per se; they are, for the most part, beyond redemption. You aren't.
Le cirque Nock cible de manifestants
COLLECTIF | 11h25 Un collectif pour le droit des animaux a manifesté mardi devant le cirque Nock avant le spectacle du soir.
Mardi, plusieurs membres du collectif antispéciste de Genève ont mené une action de contestation avant le spectacle du soir du cirque Nock, sur la plaine de Plainpalais. Le collectif qui milite pour le droit des animaux s'est posté autour du périmètre et a inscrit à la craie des slogans sur le sol. Il en a profité pour distribuer des tracts.
Selon un communiqué du collectif, leur action s'inscrit dans le cadre de la campagne AZOT (Action cirque sans animaux), qui demande l'abolition de la détention des animaux dans les cirques en Suisse, et qui appelle au boycott des cirques animaliers. "Les animaux sont des êtres sensibles, qu'ils ressentent comme nous la peur, la douleur et le plaisir, et qu'il est donc injustifiable éthiquement de les emprisonner et de les dompter pour le divertissement ou pour le profit humain" écrivent-ils.