Well, there are a couple of reasons why I hate the circus. I'm deathly afraid of clowns, of course. Awful, scary creatures, hiding behind masks. Shudder.
But this story from ANSA, the Italian news agency, gives me a further reason to be creeped out by circuses. ANSA today reported that the Italian Circus Authority (eds note: who knew such a body existed??) has called for a clampdown on unregulated circus operations after enslaved immigrants were found performing in tanks filled with piranha fish and tarantulas.
Speaking a day after a southern Italian circus was closed down and its owners charged with people trafficking and human slavery, ENC chief Egidio Palmiri said Italy's incoming government should revise previous laws that deregulated the sector and apparently made it very easy to set up a circus business.
''We criticised that liberalization, saying it would worsen and in some cases degrade the quality and management of shows. We have been proved right,'' said Palmiri, according to ANSA.
A Bulgarian girl was freed Wednesday from a tiny circus which forced her to hold her breath in an icy tank full of piranha fish.
Citing eyewitness reports, police said the girl, 19, sometimes tried to get out of the tank -- but the circus owner would push her back in, ANSA reported.
In the circus's second and final act, the girl's 16-year-old sister was laid out in a glass 'coffin' while snakes and tarantulas crawled over her.
On one occasion a snake squeezed her so hard she suffered severe bruising, police said.
Quoting the police, ANSA said the girls and their parents were forced to live in ''inhuman'' conditions in the backs of two trucks.
Two Bulgarian citizens have been placed under investigation for allegedly helping the circus managers lure Eastern Europeans on false job promises.
An unspecified number of circus 'slaves' managed to escape before Italian authorities received reports of the Bulgarians' conditions, police said.
Under threats of violence and warnings that they would be reported as illegal immigrants, the family worked 15-to-20-hour days performing menial duties and physically demanding labour.
They were paid 100 euros a week instead of the 500 they had agreed to.
The family said they were sometimes beaten when they complained, ANSA said.