36 Years Opposing Ringling Bros. Circus, 36 Years Wasted
So after 146 years, the Ringling Bros. Circus is coming to an end this May.
PETA would have you believe that their 36 years of protests are responsible for this supposedly momentous turn of events – the reality is really quite different. Cast your memory back to the spring of 2015 when Ringling first announced that it would be phasing out the use of elephants. According to Alana Feld, the company’s executive vice president, there was “somewhat of a mood shift” amongst their consumers, and many people were not “comfortable” with them touring with elephants. PETA and “animal advocates” across the globe claimed victory back then too – the reality was that the elephant exploitation had merely been substituted with camel exploitation. That very year, Ringling introduced “camel stunt riders” to its Circus Xtreme show as a replacement, and continued using other animals including lions, tigers, horses, goats, pigs and kangaroos.
Nothing had changed other than the further promotion of confusion and speciesism by “animal advocates” through implication that elephants somehow had greater moral value than the camels who were introduced to the show and every other animal used too. Business continued as usual. Back in 2014, Feld Entertainment (owners of Ringling Bros.) actually won $25.2 million in settlements from groups such as the Humane Society of the United States after a 14-year fight over allegations of elephant cruelty when the case was finally dismissed.
We now have Ringling announcing its closure in May and PETA once again claiming victory. The main reasons for closure, however, have absolutely nothing to do with PETA’s efforts against Ringling. In a recent Fox News article, Kenneth Feld, CEO of Feld entertainment, acknowledges that the circuses’ main competitor has been “time.” He maintains that the traditional circus model is such a “different model that we can’t see how it works in today’s world to justify and maintain an affordable ticket price.” Ringlings main problem has been trying to stay in the 21st century and competing with modern forms of entertainment that were just not available throughout most of the 20th century. A Ringling Bros. show is 2 hours 7 minutes long with the longest segment involving tigers being 12 minutes. “Try getting a 3 or 4 year-old today to sit for 12 minutes,” Feld said.
Also, while PETA would have you believe that the decline in attendance has been down to “raised awareness” of “animal cruelty,” the reality is, once again, quite different. According to Juliette Feld, there had been a steady drop in attendance for around 10 years due to the aforementioned issues, but when the elephants were removed, there was a “dramatic drop” in ticket sales. A large portion of their consumer base refused to attend the circus without the elephants.
Make no mistake about it, the Ringling Bros. Circus has been forced to fold, not because of “animal cruelty” issues – they continued with all other animal use and the use of both elephants and camels after the the decision to phase out elephants by 2018 – but because the circus is an enterprise that struggles to exist in a modern world where entertainment has become synonymous with technology. Indeed, Feld Entertainment owns other enterprises that still appeal to the younger generation (monster trucks, motorcross, etc.) that only stand to benefit from the increase in resources gained from closing the circus.
This is yet again just another example of how large animal organisations manipulate information in order to fundraise and claim “victory.” Not only that, while the Feld’s say that their existing animals – lions, tigers, camels, donkeys, alpacas, kangaroos and llamas – will go to to “suitable homes” (whatever that means), nothing is said about the horses, goats and pigs. But hey, I guess worrying about animals other than elephants is too much of a buzz-kill for PETA and the other orgs intent on celebrating the fold of a business for financial reasons dressed up as a “victory” for animals.
Wherever these poor souls end up going, we know for sure where the elephants are going. They are being moved from the circus to a “conservation centre” in Florida where elephants are bred and where research will be carried out on them. I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s a pretty impoverished notion of “victory.” Merely one form of exploitation has been replaced with another.
The entire 36 year-long campaign by PETA has done nothing but perpetuate speciesism and make “animal advocates” out of non-vegans who now believe that they have “won” for the animals whilst simultaneously exploiting other animals themselves. It has done nothing but tell the public that there is a moral difference between exotic animals and the animals that we use every day of our lives. As a final insult, they are taking the natural liquidation of a company past its prime and presenting it to the public in a final bout of speciesism as a “victory.” This has nothing to do with activism – it’s just business.
Think how different things would be if they’d spent the last 36 years promoting veganism as a moral baseline instead of perpetuating a false distinction between different forms of animal use. Vegans reject the use of animals as property; vegans do not attend circuses. We would have a movement of people now who reject the property status of animals who see veganism as the only rational response to animal exploitation. Instead, what we have is an “animal movement” intent on profiting from the confusion responsible for the exploitation of animals in the first place, where the “remedy” isn’t recognising rights – it’s a tax-deductible donation.
Here’s to another 146 years of single-issue campaigning and confusion. You may want to strap your picket to the bone – we’ll be long dead before the next hollow “victory.”