Final Draft


Behind the Scenes of Circuses: An Analysis

When imagining a circus, the first thought that comes to mind is the exciting and fun environment that encompasses a show. Elephants and tigers that stand on two legs, contortionists who perform the impossible, and many other amazing acts. What is not usually associated with circuses is the pain and suffering that animals have to go through in order to perform these acts for the public. One organization known as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, identifies what goes on behind the scenes of a circus. In an article on their website they focus on two specific elephants named Libby and Bunny who belong to a circus. Their trainer “carried a bullhook to force the elephants into unnatural body positions” (Toliver). Not only does the text of the article draw attention to the current issue of animal mistreatment in circuses, but also shows actual footage to further support their argument. The article “Crippled Elephants at Garden Bros. Circus Are Why Animal Acts Must End,” by Zachary Toliver from the organization PETA, primarily uses the rhetorical strategy pathos through word choice and imagery to argue that animal mistreatment in the entertainment business needs to end.

This article discusses the maltreatment of elephants in the circus. Many of these animals suffer a great amount of abuse from animal trainers. This physical abuse often results in physiological stress later on in their life. The elephants have to live in inhumane conditions and are not receiving the proper care that they need. This article is written by Zachary Toliver, an author who works for the organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, commonly know as PETA. PETA is one of the largest animal welfare organizations in the world. They advocate for animals through research, participation in protests, and in education (“About PETA”). As a result of their tireless efforts to fight for animals, this article is trying to persuade the audience to help put a stop to elephant abuse in circuses. They are a credible source that has the facts and sources to support the claims that they are arguing. Due to this evidential support, PETA is able to make a strong argument regarding the abuses that take place in circuses.

Famous circuses such as “Ringling Bros” and “Barnum & Bailey”  have been known to abuse their elephants over the years. Some young elephants were “forcibly removed from their mothers” (Spargo). They were often tied up and chained for long periods of time. For many years, circus elephants have suffered for the sake of entertainment. Footage has proven to show the horrors of the physical beatings that the animals endure. One of the most common animals that the public relates to circuses are elephants. In this article, the author specifically lists out the results of the abuse of the animals. There are pictures and videos that exemplify the physical scars that are forever marked on their bodies. Today, there are still circuses who mistreat their animals, one in particular known as “Garden Bros. Circus.” In this article, PETA has done investigative research on this circus concerning the abuses that elephants have fallen victim to. Their findings reveal the horrors of what really goes on behind the scenes of a circus. As a result of these findings, PETA’s argument to stop animal entertainment acts becomes increasingly persuasive in the eyes of the audience.

After reading the article, the purpose is easily identifiable through specific diction used throughout the text. The author of this article uses words such as “scathing,” and  “heartbreaking” to set the tone of the text (Toliver). The word “scathing,” in this statement is used to describe the harsh conditions that the elephants were found in. This is followed by the word “heartbreaking,” a fitting word that is used to set the mood of the article. The meaning of this article is strengthened by the appeal to pathos through the use of expressive adjectives. These words are used to set the tone of the article in order to focus on the intended meaning of the text. By adding detailed descriptions of the conditions that the animals were found in, anger and disgust are inflicted among readers. This anger is directed toward those who work for the circus and abuse the elephants. PETA’s goal in this article is to stop these individuals from continuing to mistreat these animals. By having emotionally driven readers as the audience, this goal can be achieved. This newfound anger can be used as a tool to put an end to the exploitation of elephants in circuses. Pathos is used as an emotional appeal to spark a reactive response in the audience. This rhetorical strategy further emphasizes the issue at hand, which is that these meaningless acts of violence need to end.

This article is most likely speaking to an audience who advocates for animal rights, and is familiar on this specific topic. PETA itself is an organization that strongly defends the rights of all animals, and fights to ensure that they are protected. As a result, many animal activists are drawn to this site to educate themselves on current issues in regards to animal welfare. This article is discussing the appalling nature that the elephants are forced to live in. PETA published this article knowing that animal activists would show the most interest in helping these elephants. The author uses the first person in the statement “we’re all too familiar with Carson & Barnes Circus,” implying that the audience has previously been aware of this organization (Toliver). In addition to using specific word choice, the author captures the attention of animal activists through the emotional appeal of pathos. One of the doctors that had researched the elephants, describes the elephants as “abused, injured, harmed and harassed” (Toliver). These descriptive words usually result in an emotional response. With animal activists as the audience, these words tend to elicit anger and disgust when referring to the circus. The findings of the conditions that these animals have to live in create an emotional response in the audience, furthering the likelihood that they will join PETA’s fight to end animal abuse in the entertainment industry.

Due to the fact that this article is posted on PETA’s website, the stance that the text takes can easily be determined. PETA is an organization that protests and advocates for animals rights, so they are arguing that the abuse of elephants needs to end in the circus. One of the bold headings in the article is titled “Well-Documented Monsters,” clearly referring to the circus company (Toliver). This comparison of a monster to the circus can be easily used to detect the position of PETA. They are doing everything in their power within this article to paint a negative portrayal of this particular circus.. PETA is successful in doing this through the use of visuals and media of the trainers abusing the elephants. These components of the article contain an emotional allure that makes the stance of PETA easily detectable. The stance of PETA is to stop cruel animal acts within the circus, a viewpoint that is supported through empathetic language within this article.  

Media plays a crucial role in conveying the message of this article. Not only does the text list out the horrors of the abuse, but there are videos placed within the article that show real footage of this maltreatment. This is the most persuasive piece of the article due to its emotional response. Within one of the videos, there is sad music playing in the background. These videos are meant to produce an emotional appeal of pathos in order to make their argument clear. Not only do these images result in an emotional reaction by the audience of animal activists, but to people in general. The immediate responses to these videos are most likely associated with disgust, horror and anger. In one of the videos, there is a text box that appears in the upper left hand corner of the screen stating “Elephants in the circus need your help” (Toliver). Incorporating first person in the text and videos furthers its persuasive value by grouping the author and audience as one. The emotion that is a result of watching these harsh videos contributes to the persuasive argument that this mistreatment by this circus must be stopped. Without these videos, the argument would still be convincing, but pathos would not be as strong in the article as a whole. By watching the actual controversial issue in action and on film, the audience is more likely to respond rather than simply reading text on a page. The audience now has a visual of these elephants clearly being hurt and harmed. Media is used as a tool of pathos to create an emotional reaction that increases the strength of the argument to end this elephant abuse in the circus.

Pathos is the leading strategy that is used in this text to convince the audience that action needs to be taken to stop the circuses from abusing elephants. The emotion in the article is enhanced through the specific stories of two elephants named Bunny and Libby. They are elephants who are victims of the brutal tactics that the animal trainers use. There are videos that show the cruel tactics that were used on these two that eventually resulted in long term psychological problems. In the article, there is a statement describing how Libby and Bunny were “chained, confined, or severely restricted in cramped tractor trailers” (Toliver). By personalizing the argument at hand, the emotional impact is much stronger because this issue has now become a reality. The stories of these elephants are appalling, causing the audience to react with anger and disgust. PETA takes advantage of this emotion to successfully argue their position to end the maltreatment of animals in the circus. Pathos is effectively distributed in many different ways in this article whether it be through word choice, media or visual components.

Although this issue does not directly affect people’s lives, it highlights the fact that animals have no voice for themselves. PETA suggests that people can help give these animals a voice. They advertise a valuable current issue that deserves attention by the media. The organization of PETA often argues on the extreme side of some issues. However, in this case they are able to effectively identify the issue of animal abuse within the circus through persuasive material. Through the text, they exemplify that this issue is current and relevant in circuses today. PETA uses Libby and Bunny as specific examples to prove the reality of the fact that this abuse is occurring behind the scenes of circuses. Through this article they are able to raise awareness of how these animals deserve to be heard and relieved of their pain. Overall, PETA uses their public platform to exhibit the reality of circuses, and to stress the importance of stopping them from inflicting pain on these elephants.