The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is returning, but without the animals. The announcement comes four years after being forced to close due to low ticket sales and protests from animal rights organizations.
Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey have made animals the center of attention for nearly 150 years. As part of the big top’s rebirth, humans are now taking center stage.
“It’s great that they are going to re-launch, but I don’t understand why no dogs and cats,” said Kay Rosaire, Founder of Big Cat Habitat.
The new show’s format is still being worked out, but animals will not be a part of it.
Big Cat Habitat in Sarasota is run by Rosaire, an 8th-generation animal trainer. Domesticated animals such as cats, dogs, and horses, she believes, should be allowed to participate in the exhibition.
“That’s the best part of it for children and many adults love to see humans and animals working together. It’s part of the tradition and there’s nothing wrong with it. They still have dog shows and they still have racehorses,” Rosaire stated.
The animal-free event will premiere in 2023, according to Feld Entertainment. Rosaire is skeptical that the show will be the same.
“I don’t see any problem with it if it’s done with good care and ethics. Nothing wrong with animals being worked by humans. We’ve always had a right to live and work and play with animals and I think it should continue,” Rosaire said.
Organizations like PETA, on the other hand, feel it’s a step in the right way.
“It’s very exciting to hear the news that they plan to come back without animals and it’s really in line with society’s feeling now, progressing toward cruelty-free entertainment,” PETA Foundation Associate Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement Debbie Metzler stated.
Since the mid-nineteenth century, the circus, with its exotic animals, colorful costumes, and death-defying acrobats, had been a staple of American entertainment. The five Ringling brothers produced juggling acts and comedies from their home base in Wisconsin, while Phineas Taylor Barnum popularized a touring circus of animals and human oddities. They eventually united, giving birth to the current circus.
The massive troupes toured America by train, dazzled spectators with the sheer scope of entertainment and variety of animals.
While the circus’s downfall was caused by a number of circumstances, including dwindling attendance, high operating costs, and changing public tastes, it was largely due to long-running legal fights with animal rights organizations.
Activists had been targeting Ringling for years, claiming that forcing animals to perform is inhumane and pointless.
The company removed its famed elephants from the acts in May of 2016, after a lengthy and costly legal struggle, and transported the animals to a conservation facility in Central Florida.
Juliette Feld, whose family bought the circus in 1967, said attendance had been declining for ten years. The elephants’ departure, however, resulted in a “dramatic drop” in ticket sales. Despite the fact that many people declared they didn’t want large animals to participate in circuses, many others refused to go to one without them.
In 2017, the show came to an end, and the remaining animals were moved to other homes and facilities.
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