When The Circuses No Longer Come To Town

It’s no coincidence that this year’s blockbuster Christmas movie. ’The Greatest Showman’ should coincide with the curtain falling on the longest-running traveling circus, namely the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s Circus. And when the ‘greatest show on earth’ finally stomps on it’s caravan brakes for the last time, other traveling circuses may not be far behind.

Back in January of this year, my blog, “Curtain Comes Down On Ringling Bros.Barnum & Bailey” was the continuation of a series of stories I’ve been writing about the waning public interest in circuses. Seems so odd that something that garnered so much excitement for myself and my brothers growing up was a fading preference for today’s families and youth.

Bi-Partisan Bill, not Zoo-Friendly

Very curious, but fortunate that in a contentious year of politics, there was one issue that both sides of the aisle could agree on. That’s right . . . both Democrats and Republicans have joined forces on a bill that would ban the use of exotic and wild animals in traveling circuses and any other entertainment act on wheels.

In late March, 2017 Representatives Raul Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat, Ryan Costello, a Pennsylvania Republican, and 22 other lawmakers introduced the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act (TEAPSPA) in the House. It would require that the 19 remaining traveling circuses in the U.S. with performing animals use only human entertainers—or shut down.

Lions, Bears, Camels, Elephants . . . oh my!

If the bill passes, it will end the touring life for more than 200 big cats, bears, camels, and elephants still working as circus performers. Thirty-four other countries around the globe have launched similar bans, as have dozens of cities and counties in the U.S., including Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Why Animals need to be rescued from Circus Life

The welfare issues connected to circus life has a long history of abuse. Animal advocates abhor the grueling and stressful pace these animals endure on a daily basis whether they’re traveling or performing. The fact they are relegated to constrained living space, and are forced to perform before screaming audiences are just two factors that affect their well-being.

“Wild animals, even if they're born in captivity, retain all their natural instincts, which are completely thwarted when they are trapped in small cages and shuttled from city to city in trucks and trailers,” says Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

“A hundred years or so ago, when we were ignorant about the intelligence and emotions and ability of a species to communicate, we might have had the excuse of our own ignorance that we treated these animals so badly,” says Jan Creamer, founder of Animal Defenders International and an advocate for TEAPSPA. “But we simply don’t have that excuse any longer. Wild animals in circuses don’t belong in an advanced, civilized society.”

Unsustainable Business Model

Over the last few years, it became very clear that removing elephants wasn’t enough to save Ringling, as I noted in my earlier blog. In January, noting declining ticket sales and high operating costs, Kenneth Feld, CEO of Ringling parent company Feld Entertainment, announced the circus would close this year. It “had become an unsustainable business for the company,” he said in a public release.

Possibly, Ringling may have may have been successful if it had switched to human-only performances years ago. Cirque de Soleil is an exemplary example of a new model that works well, basically because it features human performances only. But, Ringling did not see change as a viable option.

Bi-Parisanship working

The bill’s legislators are hopeful. “Animal welfare isn’t a partisan issue, and I am proud to work across the aisle in order to prevent these abusive practices,” Republican representative Ryan Costello (PA) said in a recent statement. “Together, we can all take part in ending animal cruelty.”

If only other bi-partisan measures could achieve similar collaboration. Your thoughts readers? Are you sad the circuses will no longer visit your town, or are you in agreement, it is time for the curtain to come down?