Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus closed after 146 years but I think the real reason the circus wasn’t profitable enough to continue extends beyond the rationale given to the press by officials.
The Real Reason Ringling Bros Circus Closed
Feld Entertainment, which has operated Ringling Bros Circus since 1995, stated the reasoning as “high costs coupled with a decline in ticket sales, making the circus an unsustainable business for the company. Following the transition of the elephants off the circus, the company saw a decline in ticket sales greater than could have been anticipated.”
There is truth to everything in the Feld statement, I’m not going to say differently. However, I think phasing out the elephants because of public outcry is greatly underscored and I feel it is the real reason why the circus won’t be coming to town again any time soon. There has been a tremendous cultural shift in how we view animals as entertainment over the past 146 years, but especially over the past 5-10 years.
In other words… people chose not to buy circus tickets not because they wanted the elephants at the circus, they stopped buying circus tickets because they wanted to see animals treated more humanely – in my opinion.
Somewhere along the way, people’s attitudes of animals for entertainment changed. Instead of being viewed as wholesome family entertainment, circuses and other venues that train animals to perform for humans are being viewed as institutions of animal cruelty. I think the shift in thinking takes place
from hardcore animal rights activists and has now filtered all the way down to moms with disposable income deciding that tickets to the circus may endorse harmful treatment of animals.
If Feld’s Ringling Bros Circus has been hemorrhaging money, one can only imagine what’s going on in the offices at Sea World who have had their feet put to the fire for treatment of their marine animals since Keiko and Free Willy more than 25 years ago. People are beginning to question the treatment of animals as it relates to their entertainment dollar in ways not previously known. Even non-entertainment facilities that deal with animals, like zoos, would be wise to pay attention to how the public is perceiving animal acts and the study of animals – even in a zoo or a aquarium environment.