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Teens to picket when circus comes to town

g and compass

May 1, 1998 By Rick Pusiak
Northern Life

At least one group of people isn't happy the circus is coming to town. Lockerby Composite School student Erika Crispo and six other students plan to hold animal rights' information pickets outside Sudbury Arena before all scheduled performances of the Shrine Circus May 3-4.

The circus is a big fund raiser for the local Shrine Club, which uses the money to help pay for the transportation of youngsters for treatment at the Shriners' Hospital for Children in Montreal.

Crispo, a 19 year old OAC student at Lockerby, told the Northern Life the information pickets will be peaceful and they won't be stopping anyone from going into the arena.

"We just think it's not right for animals to do degrading tricks. Kids love animals, but they don't know what the animals are going through. I went to the circus when I was very little and I thought it was silly. I didn't see the purpose of degrading animals."

Crispo is quick to point out that she is not saying the animals at the Shrine Circus are abused. It's just that the whole concept of an animal circus is disturbing to her. "Just because they haven't been beaten, it's no excuse for them to be taken away (from their natural habitat) and forced to do tricks.

Crispo became politicized about five years ago when she received some information on People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

A small group of students showed up at a picket organizing meeting held recently at Lockerby. "We are trying to get more people. Some adults are interested in animals' rights and we're trying to contact them to see if they will join in with us." she said.

Circus chair for the local Shrine Club, Dave Sykes, said the animals coming to Sudbury are not abused. "My experience with them (the circus) is that they treat their animals very well. That's how trainers make their livelihood."

Sykes has even broached the subject of abuse with the circus owner. "I walked through the area (where the animals were) and it was very well kept. I never saw any mistreatment."

The animals in the circus have been domesticated for several generations and might not be ale to survive in the wild, he said. Sykes explained that the money raised by bringing the circus does a lot of good.

"There are between 60 to 70 Sudbury and area kids on an active treatment list (at the Shriners' Hospital for Children in Montreal). That means they go at least once a year. We spend $100, 000 on transportation to hospitals for local kids."

Local fund-raising covers about half the transportation bill, the other half is covered by the Rameses' Shrine Unit in Toronto.

In addition to the circus (which accounts for about 10 per cent of money raised locally) the Shriners sell cakes at Christmas, hold bingo's and may also start collecting aluminum cans for recycling.

The Shriners also bring in a doctor from Montreal to Laurentian Hospital in Sudbury four times a year to do pre-operation consultation.

The Montreal hospital specializes in correcting deformities and genetic conditions like spina bifida. "There is no pediatric orthopedic surgeon in Sudbury. We fill a void in medical treatment because of funding cutbacks and because we're under serviced.

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