Ringling Bros. Circus Will Shut Down Forever, a Win for Animal Rights Groups?

January 31, 2017


“This is not a win for anyone”

Kenneth Feld, Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus CEO pushed back against the general belief that the legendary circus ended due to the animal rights group. Billed as the “greatest show on earth”, the 146 years old entertainment extravaganza called time its biggest competitor. The mode of entertainment has changed. Earlier people would sit and enjoy circus routines for hours, but now they can’t even stay for a one-hour show. Movies, latest technology, video games and other fast-paced activities have taken over.

According to the company’s CEO, entertainment has changed and so has the traditional family unit. This doubled with high operating costs and drop in Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus tickets sales eventually resulted in the circus folding its tents for good. Last year, the company decided to retire its veteran elephants and it further affected the attendance. Even at that time the founders of the circus claimed that it was the changing trends that prompted the decision to phase out the elephant routines. In a press release the Vice President Alana Feld stated, “There’s been somewhat of a mood shift among our consumers. A lot of people aren’t comfortable with us touring with our elephants.”

Ringling Bros commitment to its exotic and famed animals is for lifetime. So according to the Felds, “This is not a win for animal rights activists”.

Ringling Circus – As Seen by the Ringmaster Jonathan Lee Iverson

With the greatest show coming to an end, it’s also the end of an era. For the Feld Entertainment it also means looking out for its more than 500 employees, who would be jobless and likely to be affected by the shutdown. Ringmaster Jonathan Lee Iverson stated that the shutdown news came as a shock. In all these years, the circus had become more like a society and a community. Due to the hard work and time that the workers had to put in, along with the intense travelling, the company had provided the facility of school and nursery to its team. Iverson not just met his wife on the circus but also started his family there. Ringling Bros has been a home to him like no other.

He believes the problem started when the company got defensive; whereas instead it should have been more proactive. The owners should have pushed hard into establishing who they are – big lovers of animals.

Iverson has been with the circus for several years now. Ringling only allows skilled trainers to work with the animals and it’s their experience that earned them the job in the first place. The idea of abusing these animals and violating their rights is revolting for them. In fact, their belief is that it’s these animals that put food on their table, are a purpose of their living, so abusing them is nothing short of a stupid idea.

Calling themselves “joy peddlers”, the Ringling team is making the most of these last months together. Between now and May, the circus company will perform 30 shows in total, final performances taking place in New York.

“It’s Finally Over” – Announce the Gleeful Animal Rights Activists

What killed the show? Animal Rights Group believes that it’s their constant pressure that finally forced the Feld Entertainment to close the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Calling the circus the saddest show on earth for the wild animals, they applauded the decision and declared it their victory.

Animal rights advocates led by their main crusader Pamela Anderson stated that other animal circuses, marine amusement parks and wild animal exhibitors should also take a note. According to them the society has changed and people seem to have a conflicted opinion about the animal acts. Long before the Feld family decided to end the circus, major cities like Los Angeles, Oakland, North Carolina and Asheville prohibited the use of bull-hooks to train elephants. Eventually these cities banned the routines that used exotic or wild animals.

Interestingly though, in March 2016, the Ringling Circus and Feld Entertainment won the 14-year old court case against the animal rights groups who claimed ill-treatment of the elephants used in the circus. The judge overruled the lawsuit after finding out that these activists had been paying off the lead plaintiff. Ringling ended the elephant acts six weeks after winning the case but it was an internal decision and the opinion of the activists like the Humane Society had nothing to do with it.

With the circus on its final run, animal rights group PETA claimed that it’s their 36 years of protests that led to the decision. As their voice got louder and louder, the attendance reduced at the circus to the point of no return.

Award winning actor Seth MacFarlane lauded the company’s decision, tweeting “The closure of Ringling Bros. circus ends 146 years of animal humiliation for human amusement. Good riddance”. Emmy Award winning actor and comedian Ricky Gervais also tweeted, “Ringling Brothers Circus is closing permanently! A victory for humanity.”

Activists Cheer, Unemployed Workers Cry Foul

There is a time-worn axiom about there being two sides to a story. It’s absolutely true in case of the Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus. From saddened traditionalists to the elated animal rights activists, all have voiced their opinion. And the reactions are surely divided.

Ringling Circus has seen world wars, survived various economic cycles and kept up with the contemporary change. But in an era of IMAX movies, Pokemon and high tech video games, the “greatest show on earth” just couldn’t sustain. It struggled to fill the seats in the last ten years and the final nail to the coffin was the end of elephant routine. While some didn’t want the big animals to perform in the circus, there were others who didn’t want to attend a circus without them.

Basketball Hall of Famer, Shaquille O’Neal voiced his disappointment on Twitter about the shutdown of the circus. 146 years of death-defying acts, daring men and women flying on trapeze, human cannonballs and talented clowns, it’s all coming to an end. Former governor Mike Huckabee also shared his sadness, stating that future generations would definitely miss out on the greatest show on earth. He thanked Ringling for all the memories.

Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus has not just been a staple of entertainment in the United States since the mid-1800s. It stood up for equality – hiring the first African American ringmaster at the time when the idea was frowned upon. The circus also remained an advocate for women empowerment, giving important roles to the females and even hiring its first woman ringmaster.

The silver lining is that people want to give a proper farewell to this iconic circus. Considering it is Ringling’s last hurrah, fans are rushing to buy tickets and watch the “Greatest Show on Earth” one last time.

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