Legislation & Lobbying

Should photos of children with tigers, bears and other circus animals be banned?

Having a child’s photograph taken next to a circus animal such as a lion, tiger or bear might seem like such an inherently bad idea that no parent would even consider it, let alone encourage a fearful son or daughter to sit down with the creature for a picture.

Yet the practice of taking such photos is common–and, so far, legal–in Russia, reports the New York Times (req. req.).

At least one trainer at a state-owned circus company says it is inherently unsafe to put children next to predators and is calling for the Russian senate to enact a law to ban such photography.

His company prohibits such photos, deputy director Boris E. Maikhrovsky of Rosgostsirk tells the newspaper. He trains sea lions and penguins for the state circus.

“We have an order categorically forbidding photographing with animals,” he said. “Whoever does this knows it will end badly one day. We can never know what is in the head of an animal. Even a cat will scratch sometimes.”

However, others point out that life is full of risks, and say that little injury has resulted from such circus photos.

The trainer of Chanel, a five-year-old tiger who regularly appears in photos with children, says he takes steps to minimize the risk, including feeding her a 10-pound meal of raw beef before she goes on camera.

“People go to the circus for adrenalin,” said Maksim Y. Nikulin, the director of the circus that features Chanel. “If it appeared to be entirely safe it would not be interesting.”

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