I was 6 years old, begging my mom to take me to the circus, not understanding why she hesitated. When she gave in and took me, I quickly discovered there was something wrong. The noise, the toys, and the treats were not enough to distract me from how unhappy the animals appeared. They looked miserable, beaten down, and exhausted. I understood then my mom's hesitation. It was not fun for us or the animals.

I've only visited the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center on windy April days since then to peacefully protest the annual circus there - so others may learn the truth, too.

We as parents need to ask ourselves if we really want to teach our children that violence and torture of God's creation is OK and even "fun." Due to the instinctual nature of wild animals, the only way to get them to perform is to use violence and fear to control them.

The fact that animal circuses are still operating demonstrates clearly that society still believes slavery is excusable. These beliefs need to change if we are ever to experience a peaceful planet.

Circuses teach children that oppressive control, fear-based domination, abuse, and blatant disrespect are not only acceptable but are even glorified ways to treat others. I strongly disagree and believe this is damaging to our kids. Taking them to the circus does not teach them that loving stewardship of our beautiful planet and respect for all creation are important and our duty.

Now I have a 6-year-old daughter. When she asks about going to the circus, I tell her I love her and the animals too much to take her. We go on an Earth Day activity instead or do something else that benefits ourselves and the planet.

I want better for my child, and I want better for yours. We hold so much power to influence the lives our children will lead and the choices they will make. Let's be responsible by modeling ethical and loving behavior.

I believe we all can make the choice to turn to love and truth in each moment in our own lives, and this is how we can change the world. What an incredible and powerful gift we can give to our children: teaching them how to be loving and to tell the truth and giving them the opportunity to practice compassion for all beings.

I encourage all parents who plan to attend the circus with children this weekend to rethink promoting the circus next year.

Mandy McDonald of Duluth has peacefully protested the annual spring circus at the DECC.