UCF better off without circus
Published: Sunday, April 13, 2008
Updated: Sunday, February 15, 2009 16:02
It's that time of year again. Come spring, UCF plays host to the annual Bahia Shrine Circus. But all is not fun and games.
UCF has hosted the Shrine Circus for a number of years, and every year it draws more protest from animal rights groups claiming the show is riddled with animal cruelty and the Shriners are nothing but frauds.
The Shriners of course claim they are not frauds but are doing a service to the public by providing entertainment and that the money earned from the ticket sales goes to benefit the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Who is right? Well, let's take a look at some facts.
According to a recent article in the New York Times, an examination by the newspaper of Shrine records and minutes of Shrine meetings and interviews with current and former Shrine officials revealed that more than 57 percent of the $32 million the Shriners raised in 2005 through circuses, bingo games, raffles and a variety of sales went to costs of the fraternity, including keeping liquor cabinets full and offering expense-paid trips to Shrine meetings and other events.
The animal rights activists claim that only 2 percent of the Shriners Hospitals' operating income comes from the money they raise. The Times' investigation confirmed this claim and found that the majority of the money is supplied by the hospitals' $9 billion endowment.
Simply put, the money that people pay to see the circus makes up a very small portion of the hospitals' funds.
And what about the animal cruelty?
Public documents from the United States Department of Agriculture show that the circus has indeed been cited numerous times for animal cruelty, including failure to provide veterinary care and adequate shelter and failure to handle animals in a manner that prevents trauma and harm and ensures public safety.
It seems the temple members may not know the difference between animal cruelty and animal care, either. A story told in a 2004 Future article illustrates this well. The temple's mascot at the time, a camel named Sir Gus Jr., was forced to sit outside the circus all day so passersby could get a photo with him. By late afternoon, Gus was so tired of standing that he lay on the ground on his side with his eyes closed and legs sprawled out. The temple member assured passers-by that Gus was just tired and was taking a nap.
Another Shriner then told the story of Gus Sr., who was brought to one of the veteran's homes. "Old Gus drank beer," he said. "Oh yeah, we'd give it to him to drink, and he'd just drink it right up. Of course, if you tried to give him some diet beer after that, he'd know and he wouldn't take it. If you started him off with the light beer first, he'd be all right, but not if you gave him the real stuff first."
So there you have it in a nutshell. With all these facts in our mind, we find it hard not to question if the circus is really something we want at UCF.
And what's UCF President John Hitt's take on the matter? Last fall, Hitt was confronted by activists in a student open forum on the issue. Hitt stunned the activists by announcing that he planned to continue allowing the circus to be held at UCF. Hitt stated that the school had an ongoing contract with the Shriners and intended to honor it.
We respect that Hitt likes to keep his word, and we can see why he would decide to honor a contract he and the university signed.
Take-backs just don't work well in the world of business. To back out of the contract prematurely would do nothing but make UCF look as though they are wishy-washy with business contracts.
However, when that contract is up, we feel it is high time to give the Shrine Circus the boot off our campus for good.
The evidence is on the table: Poorly used funds, misdirected advertising, sick stories of animal cruelty told in jest by temple members themselves. Enough is enough.
We urge Hitt to allow the contract the school has with the Shriners to expire.
UCF should be a school with a clean slate and should work for that clean slate by making sure the people we deal with are clean as well.
Ignoring the facts of the matter and continuing to profit from the Shrine Circus on our campus is completely immoral. To do so reflects poorly on the UCF administration and the school as a whole.
The time has come to end the circus at UCF. It is no longer fun and games at the circus, and the people are aware of it. The contract must not be renewed.