Officials of Feld Entertainment, the company that owns the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, announced Saturday that it will “fold the tent” for good in May.
The company stated that 462 people would now be out of a job and cited low-ticket sales and high operating costs as the cause of its financial troubles. Yes, the fact that hundreds are now searching for new employment is sad. However, Ringling should not search for pity from the public over the closing of its doors.
Any writer with half a brain can wax poetic about the mystique and allure of an old-fashioned circus full of death-defying feats and exotic animals, as is being showcased in the many nostalgia-themed articles flooding papers across the country.
The truth is not so pleasant.
For 146 years, the Ringling Bros. circus used animal cruelty to put on a slightly nauseating show. Asian elephants were forced to perform like dolls for the captivated public and animal activists have fought tooth and nail to end the cruel treatment needed to evoke such seamless performances.
In 2016 the company caved to the many lawsuits and protestors and retired all 40 of its elephants to the Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida. However, it made no such promises for the lions, tigers and kangaroos that performed stunts in the show.
It’s hard to call up pleasant memories of clowns piling out of cars when you automatically recall the look in the elephant’s eye as it tried to balance on a ball to please its trainer.
Humans swinging from trapezes were entertaining, lions being whipped into submission was not.
The practice is outdated and with the current focus on ensuring rights for those who can’t speak for themselves — a practice that should have always been a priority, but sadly seems to just recently matter to most Americans — the circus had to learn to function without its graceful four-legged stars.
So no, the closing of Ringling Bros. circus is by no means a tragedy.
The company stated it would aid in the transition of its employees to other jobs so hopefully the majority of them are able to find work elsewhere without a hassle.
And at the end of the day, a group of animals who have been exploited their entire lives now have a shot at a peaceful retirement. So put away the tissues America and grab some confetti. If you’re really missing the pizazz of circus life, flip on Dumbo, and in an hour and a half, you’ll be over it and no animals will have had to work for your enjoyment.