We’re all feeling the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic—which has put the world on lockdown and made us all feel uneasy about the future. It’s difficult to see anything positive in our current situation, but in recent weeks there’s been an unexpected benefit for animals. Public events across the globe are being canceled because of ongoing government restrictions on large events and mass gatherings, and that means the countless events that focus on exploiting animals are being canceled, too. We’re thanking our lucky stars that the innocent animals used for entertainment at these six significant events are being spared—at least for the time being.
1. Traveling circuses in the United States
Touring circuses across the country, including Royal Hanneford, UniverSoul, and Carson & Barnes, have canceled or postponed performances. This means the captive elephants, zebras, tigers, and other animals are not being hauled across the country in trailers and forced to perform demeaning tricks for an audience.
2. Calf-roping, horse-racing, and steer-wrestling in Canada
Canceling this year’s Calgary Stampede—one of Canada’s largest festivals that is hosted annually in Alberta—means avoiding fatalities among the thousands of animals and participants involved in the brutal event, which centers around hurting and exploiting animals with calf-roping, cattle-penning, horse-racing, sheep-shearing, and steer-wrestling. This is the first time the stampede has been canceled since it became an annual event in 1923.
3. Horse-racing across the United Kingdom
The British Horseracing Authority has suspended all horse-racing—which is the second largest spectator sport in the country—including popular events such as the Royal Ascot. Hopefully, this means horses won’t be abused and neglected as they are during racing season, and hundreds of them won’t die from fatal injuries during competition.
4. Bullfighting in Spain
Traditional bullfighting events across Spain—including the country’s massive San Fermin bull run festival—are being suspended indefinitely this year. Events like these entail bulls running through the streets while a crowd of people chases after them, and picadors (men on horses) provoking the bulls with weapons such as lances and harpoons and then attempting to kill them with a long sword or daggers. With the cancellation of these events, numerous bulls’ lives will be spared.
5. Dolphin shows at SeaWorld
Aquatic theme parks such as SeaWorld and Discovery Cove in Orlando, FL have temporarily shut their doors, meaning captive dolphins used for public interactions and entertainment aren’t enduring the stress they once were. SeaWorld has faced tremendous pressure to close and release its dolphins to sanctuaries since the release of documentary Blackfish in 2013, which told the story of Tilikum, one of many performing killer whales who has died at the entertainment park.
6. Horse-racing at the Kentucky Derby
Racetracks across the country have suspended events, including the famous Kentucky Derby, which has indefinitely postponed its annual spring event. This means horses will be spared from fatal injuries during competition and the effects of the drug cocktails that are given to them to enhance their performance.
Among all the lessons we can take away from the COVID-19 experience, a better understanding of the consequences of animal exploitation will be one of the strongest messages. And when we’re finally on the other side of the pandemic, the suspension of these events will be one of the best things to come from it. My hope is that one day the cancellation of these events will become permanent and that people who work in these animal-exploiting industries will find a way to pivot their careers to be pro-animal—such as running an animal sanctuary, helping to change laws for animals, or even making cashew milk. In the meantime, the most important thing we can do is continue to gently spread awareness—and perhaps one day there will be a collective moral shift that changes the world.