The big top debate

Animal ban for circuses is an absurd waste of the City Council’s time.

Last week, the Minneapolis City Council spent two hours debating whether it should ban wild animals from the circuses held on occasion at the Target Center. After taking the time to draw up an ordinance to that effect and debate it at prior subcommittee meetings, it’s hard to tell how much time has been wasted by this measure, but needless to say, it was far too much. And it was insulting to all taxpayers in the city who feel the council’s work should be a bit more focused on real problems.

The ban was proposed at the insistence of an animal rights group called Circus Reform Yes, which believes that wild animals featured in circus shows like tigers and elephants are treated cruelly. Representatives from the Shrine Circus disagreed, and the council eventually voted to revise the ordinance to put greater restrictions on circuses at a later date instead of an outright ban, but we believe this issue should be tabled until the city makes some real progress on other issues that need to be addressed.

Take, for instance, three community libraries that have been shut down due to lack of funding, or the omnipresent financial difficulties of the city’s high schools. As shown in a report by the Star Tribune last week, students use decrepit to sometimes nonexistent sports facilities with no electricity or bathrooms. Or perhaps putting some effort toward drafting a long-term plan for the city’s inevitable and now-apparent infrastructure challenges might be a worthy effort.

Even more seriously, just this past weekend, a 12-year-old girl was shot in the head on her way home from a neighbor’s party in north Minneapolis and is now in critical condition. Police say this tragic, unmotivated shooting is an indication of gangs and their victims getting younger and younger.

The City Council’s time could be far better spent trying to address these and other concerns than whether to allow animals in circuses.