PETA objects to Merriam-Webster's "circus"
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Sat Jun 24 19:01:07 UTC 2006
PETA goes wild - Wants dictionary to jump through hoops
By _Dave Wedge_ (mailto:dwedge at bostonherald.com)
Boston Herald Chief Enterprise Reporter
Friday, June 23, 2006 - Updated: 10:31 AM EST
PETA activists are cracking the whip on Springfield-based Merriam-Webster,
demanding that the definition of “circus” be rewritten to label the big top
as cruel to “captive” animal performers.
The dictionary currently defines a circus as “an arena often covered by a
tent and used for variety shows, usually including feats of physical skill,
wild animal acts, and performances by clowns.”
But People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - known for caging naked
women to protest the wearing of fur and protesting the living conditions of pet
store iguanas -- wants a new entry.
PETA’s proposal defines a circus as a “spectacle that relies on captive
animals” who are “forced to perform tricks under the constant threat of
punishment.” It also wants the definition to say that “modern circuses include only
willing human performers.”
The dictionary publishing company couldn’t be reached last night, but, in a
letter to Merriam-Webster provided to the Herald, PETA points out that “
whips, chains, muzzles, and bullhooks are the standard tools used to train and
constantly control animals used in circuses.”
“The sight of these weapons makes the animals perform out of sheer terror,”
the letter states.
The letter also refers to undercover investigations that have revealed
squalid conditions for circus animals as well as animals being mercilessly beaten
by trainers. PETA says attendance is down at traditional shows like Ringling
Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus while crowds at human-based performances
like Cirque Du Soleil are at an all-time high. A Ringling spokesman did not
return a call.
“People who use your dictionary deserve an accurate description of this
cruel business, and we hope that you’ll consider our suggestion,” the PETA
Circuses that feature trained animals are banned in six countries and more
than 300 U.S. cities and towns, including Revere. A pending State House bill
to prohibit exotic animals in Massachusetts circuses is expected to go to a
Senate vote this year.
“As more and more people become aware of the cruelty and violence that goes
on behind the scenes at circuses, we felt the definition needed to be updated,
” said PETA spokesman Matthew Rice.
Merriam-Webster routinely updates definitions, frequently considering public
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