• Animals and Magic

  • June 09, 2020

  • This is always an interesting topic for me. In my short time alive on this planet I have seen magicians do incredible things with animals, having grown up watching magicians such as Lance Burton produce an endless stream of doves from nowhere and always enjoyed the performances. Siegfried and Roy were always doing jaw dropping displays of magic with what seemed to be their own private zoo. Of course there is also Houdini’s famous vanishing elephant and more recently, David Blaine vomiting up live goldfish. All of these are examples of incredible magicians, all of whom did amazing magic with live animals.

    However, I will never do magic with live animals. Well, I may take a page out of Piff the Magic Dragon’s style when it comes to working with animals, but I won’t be doing anything close to what my heroes did.

    I do not want you, dear reader, to think that I believe myself to be “above” or “better” than those magicians, or any other who should choose to include live animals in their act. For nothing could be further from the truth. In most of the cases I have mentioned, I know that the animals are unharmed, treated humanely and probably even pampered to absurd levels. I have many reasons why I have chosen this path for myself.

    The foremost reason is that I am lazy. Maybe lazy is the wrong word, I like to think I work relatively hard after all! What I mean is that I do not believe the amount of work required to train, feed, house, care for and look after a live animal, is worth the payout for the magical effects. Do not get me wrong, I am aware that all magic requires a huge investment of time to get the results we are after, but animals are a step too far for me.

    There is of course the elephant in the room (or not in Houdini’s case...) that is the issue of animal cruelty. When it comes to doves, I know they are surprisingly good at fitting into small spaces, and very flexible, so maybe it is not too bad for them after all. Unfortunately I have heard too many horror stories of them dying due to suffocation or being crushed due to mishandling or other similar mistakes, for which no one is to blame. So I choose to take no part in the activities that could lead to these situations. Whether a goldfish is really that upset about being inside David Blaine, I don’t know, but again, I personally would rather not get involved.

    I should stress, that while this is partially a morale decision, this is also in no small way a practical decision. I don’t currently have a place to house any more animals that the cat I own and the chameleon I have on the way. I have no means with which to transport them to and from a gig as I do not yet have a driving permit (I know, it’s on the to do list!), and I don’t have the budget to cover the additional insurance yet alone the factors I mentioned previously.

    Finally, there is also a lesson that no one ever taught me, but I recall hearing many times. “Never work with children or animals”. I avoid both whenever I can. They are too unpredictable. I used to perform in a regular cabaret show where our lead magician would produce a dove from a painting. A beautiful effect, but one time the dove flew into the audience and decided to stay in the rafters rather than returning. This made it relatively difficult for our lead to continue with his act, since he needed the dove, so a replacement had to be brought from back stage while he stalled. A few minutes later there was a shout of surprise from the audience that seemed to have no relation to the performance. It was unrelated as the dove had shat on an audience member. A little embarrassing in the middle of a performance!

    The show must go on, and so it did, we still got a thunderous round of applause at the end of the night, it just wasn’t as thunderous as usual....

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