What was once known as “the Greatest Show On Earth” has now come to an end, as the Ringling Brothers gave their final performance on Sunday, March 20th in New York. Many across America were saddened by the news that this travelling circus, a household name for 146 years, would be no more. To many others, however, this marked a huge achievement for animal rights and welfare.
Even though this circus was loved and adored by many, it no longer made sense for the Ringling Brothers to continue performing, as declining ticket sales — largely the result of a shift in public opinion regarding circus animal welfare — could no longer support their tremendous operating costs.
I remember the last circus I went to, about 12 years ago with my sister. I was so excited to see all of the acrobatics, tricks, elephants, etc. But, it wasn’t long before I felt like I needed to get out of there, that I wanted no part in supporting something like that. Seeing those giant, majestic animals being forced to perform tricks, so far removed from their natural habitat, was absolutely heartbreaking.
When you then consider the travelling requirements of most circuses, how these animals often spend hours and hours a day cramped inside a small cage inside a moving vehicle — all to entertain us for a few hours — you’re really forced to question your values.
What Do We Value?
I believe that if we were able to see all aspects of what it takes to actually put on a circus and what the animals have to endure we would reconsider visiting such attractions. That is most likely why audiences for the Ringling Brothers have been declining so much in recent years, as awareness is continuing to be raised about what really goes on behind closed doors, and much of the general public no longer wants to support it.
Consider the colossal costs of the travelling circus. It must support the many men, women, and children involved, as well as the animals, their trainers, and their transportation. It needs travelling schoolrooms, musicians, and insurance to cover the whole operation. And somehow, it must turn a profit. Feld Entertainment, the family operation that owns the circus, has determined that the business model simply no longer works.
Voting With Your Dollar
I’d like to point out here that this is a prime example of activism at work. There is tremendous power in voting with your dollar, and as the consumer, you and I have the choice to create the type of world we want to live in. We do this by deciding carefully where we would like to spend our dollars. It’s putting your money where you mouth is in the most literal sense.
You don’t agree with animals being treated unfairly? Then don’t support the circus or other avenues that exploit animals such as aquariums and zoos. Without public consumer support, these businesses — such as the Ringling Brothers Circus and now Seaworld, which will put an end to their orca shows this year — cease to exist.
This is possible because of YOU, the consumer. I won’t get too off topic here, but you can do this with every single thing you spend your money on. Always consider what that money will be supporting and the ethics of the company. This is one extremely powerful way we WILL change the world.
What Will Happen to Ringling Brothers Elephants?
Now that this circus has come to an end, what will be the fate of the elephants who have had their freedom taken away from them? They will be able to retire on a 200-acre-ranch that is already home to 30 other elephants who live a life of relaxation, free of ogling tourists and demanding trainers.
Although this sounds like a nice way to retire, it is important to note that Ringling does continue to breed additional elephants at the conservation centre and plans to eventually put them on public display at a tourist destination.
This is obviously not ideal, but it is a huge step in the right direction. It is much better than having the elephants constantly travelling around and being trained using stressful and potentially harmful methods. And who knows? Maybe no one will show up to support this tourist attraction, and these beautiful creatures can live out their years in peace.
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