Over the years, I've blogged about animal captivity in circuses, zoos and aquariums, and the cruelty and abuse resulting when wildlife is caged. I’ve reported on the waning public interest with these types of entertainment. I've reported on some of the major animal activist groups protesting who are fighting maltreatment associated with captivity. Their efforts were not in vain. After People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals PETA accused circuses of cruelty repetitively over the years, they finally ceased using elephants altogether, and actually retired the older ones to sanctuaries they created.
PETA and other animal advocacy groups have worked diligently to bring animal abuse to our attention. Underscoring this malfeasance and to emphasize their impact, Barnum recently took a major step to express the freedom they were providing the animals that remained under their care. The action they took was in the form of artistic expression.
The positive change that resulted was a redesign of the 116-year-old packaging of Barnum’s Animals Crackers. According to Barnum's officials, the new box reflects modern societies’ zero tolerance for animal cruelty and mirrors the end of the 146-year-old Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, for which the snack was named after.
Wilde about Art?
In one of his most notable quotes, Oscar Wilde opined in his 1889 essay The Decay of Lying, that "Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life". Wilde's "Platonic" premise goes beyond "life's imitative instinct." He asserts the self-conscious aim of life is to find expression through art, which offers it up in artistic expression, from where it can realize its energy.
Wilde supports his thesis by suggesting what is found in life and nature is not what is really there, but rather what is interpreted by the artist. He supports his theory with the example of fog in London. While fog has existed in London for centuries, one only notices the beauty and wonder of the fog through art. This is because "poets and painters have taught the loveliness of such effects...They did not exist till Art had invented them," asserts Wilde.
However, if we were to apply Wilde's theory to Barnum's new Animal Crackers, from my point of view, I'm not so wild about it.
Barnum's Animal Crackers keenly reflect something society no longer tolerates, namely the caging of circus animals.
My thought is you can't have one without the other. Yes, viewing freed animals is a visual statement, but so are caged animals. My thought is, we need both to simultaneously enhance our perception. It's the synergy of the two components that elevates our appreciation.
The question is not caged animals, or animals roaming free in isolation.You need both. You need the former to understand the consequences of the latter. New York Times correspondent Matthew Haag notes that the creation of the new box packaging was a "symbolic victory for animal rights activists."
However, in my opinion, it would not have achieved that goal, if the original recognizable yellow-and-red boxes weren't seeded into our consciousness. We would not have appreciated the redesign and its portrayal of "a cruel bygone era when traveling circuses transported exotic wildlife in confinement."
That is unless, you were confusing it . . . with yet another type of cracker altogether.
Primary Source: My Modern Met