Yesterday, on January 14, 2017, Ringling Brothers announced that it will be closing this May. In a statement issued to the public, the circus cited rising operating costs, lack of public interest, and mounting legal fees with animal interests groups as reasons for the closing. This is great news for the animals who will be freed from the circus and will go to animal sanctuaries for retirement.
Circus profits declined in recent years for many reasons. The operation dealt with high operating costs, expensive legal battles, and changing public opinions. Large, exotic animals and death-defying stunts made the circus popular in the late 1800’s and the first half of the 1900’s, but in a world of CGI and Video Game Fantasies, the thrill of the circus for many was passe. Ringling Brothers themselves cite populations saturated with amazing programs on television, and animal rights activists– who were merely working to raise awareness about the life of animals behind circus caravan bars.
Perhaps the most famous circus elephant was Jumbo the Elephant, the real life inspiration for Dumbo. Jumbo was adored in Victoria’s England, but was neglected and abused in the circus. In order for the circus to keep an intelligent, large, mammal, like an elephant, in a cage, its will had to be broken. This meant that hooks and spears were used to control Jumbo. Every night, Jumbo would wear his tusks down from anxiety, and everyday, his handlers would get him drunk to perform. Jumbo eventually died from being hit by a train between performances. Sadly, most Americans knew of Jumbo’s tragic life only through the Disney film– itself a rather dark portrayal, especially for Disney. Lately, people are becoming aware of how inhumane it is to use animals as entertainment.
The closing of one of the most iconic American circuses has in part been created by the resurgence of public interest in animal welfare. This announcement was made just one year after the circus eliminated elephants from its shows, and just days after the death of Tilikum, the killer whale imprisoned in Sea World, who inspired the movie Blackfish. Meanwhile, plant-based diets and vegan communities have been steadily rising in the past 5 years.
Parents who are interested in visiting animals with their children are able to avoid the mistreatment and abuse surrounding the animal entertainment industry. By avoiding zoos and circuses, children can interact with animals in a compassionate fashion, and learn more about animals and their family structures in an environment that wasn’t crafted with spectacle in mind. At wildlife or farm animal sanctuaries and wild conservatories animals are allowed to live their lives without being shown or used for profit– everybody wins.
For a list of animal sanctuaries near you: http://asaanimalsanctuaries.org/