The Corner

Culture

The Circus Is No Longer Coming to Town

Welcome to the last week of the Obama presidency. It’s Inauguration Week, a time turn the page and leave behind the mistakes of the past… and to look ahead with new confidence to the mistakes of the future.

From the first Morning Jolt of the week:

The Circus Is No Longer Coming to Town

In an era of ever-larger raging public furies aiming to get more clicks and attention, take a moment to read and salute Jazz Shaw’s nuanced assessment of the news that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is shutting down.

In later years I came to dislike the circus animal acts… a subject which can’t be separated from the topic of Ringling Brothers closing, but also doesn’t account for the entire story. Much like zoos and SeaWorld style marine parks, I didn’t care to see the large, intelligent mammals like the elephants and big cats put on display and made to perform unnatural tasks while living in cramped quarters and being trucked around the continent. It wasn’t some sort of torture, however. The circus beat back the animal rights groups accusing them of cruelty a few years ago and even obtained a $25M judgment against them, but a significant portion of public sentiment had clearly shifted. Personally, looking at the animals just made me sad.

Is there something in between animal cruelty and treating an animal the way it should be treated? Life on the road is rough enough for human beings, I can only imagine what it’s like from the perspective of an animal. I suspect Jazz and most people don’t feel the same way about zoos that give the animals sufficient space to run and move around and live a life that somewhat resembles their life in the wild. He continues:

If the government had swooped in and shut down the show in some misguided mission of social justice it would have been an outrage (absent any proof of criminal behavior). But that’s not what happened. Ringling Brothers is going down because consumers voted with their wallets. Part of it centered on the animal shows to be sure. The owners admitted that some people stopped coming because of the elephants, but another large group stopped attending after the elephants were retired a few years ago.

…Ringling Brothers is going out of business because they failed to deliver a product which a sufficient number of consumers desire. In the end, that’s all there was to it.

Unmentioned in the coverage: Kristen Michelle Wilson just debuted as the first female ringmaster in the company’s 146-year history, a promotion she described as “living her dream.”

It is indeed the end of an era. Big Apple Circus declared bankruptcy back in November.

Then again, Cirque de Soleil has never been bigger: “The company has close to 4,000 employees, including 1,300 performing artists from close to 50 different countries. Cirque du Soleil has brought wonder and delight to more than 155 million spectators in more than 300 cities in over forty countries on six continents.”

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