Ringling’s Animal-Free Comeback Sends a Powerful Industry Message: Cruelty Has No Place in Circuses

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Nearly five years after PETA’s triumph over Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the shuttered show is reportedly planning its return to the big top—without elephants, tigers, or any other nonconsenting animals! The exciting announcement sends a powerful message to the entire industry, something that PETA’s been saying for decades: Cruelty doesn’t belong in the circus or in any other form of entertainment.

As Ringling Bros. announces an animal-free comeback tour after a five-year hiatus, PETA is offering it the group’s web domain Circuses.com, which was previously used to expose the abuse of animals used in its circus.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus returns with a display of human ingenuity after 146 years of animal abuse…

Posted by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) on Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Ringling is returning with a bang, transforming the saddest show on Earth into a dazzling display of human ingenuity after 146 years of animal abuse. PETA is cheering on the animal-free revamp and will gladly hand over Circuses.com to celebrate the spotlight’s turn toward talented human professionals who choose to perform.

—Rachel Mathews, PETA Foundation Director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement

Originally published on October 22, 2021:
Feld Entertainment Chair and CEO Kenneth Feld and Chief Operating Officer Juliette Feld Grossman apparently declared the show’s 2023 animal exploitation–free comeback yesterday during a conference in Seattle, with a formal announcement reportedly slated for next year. (Feld Entertainment, which is Ringling Bros.’ parent company, has canceled its federal Animal Welfare Act license.) The announcement comes after PETA wrote to Grossman in 2020, after learning of the circus’s potential return, urging her and the company to employ only willing human talent in future productions.

We looked at our company like a 50-year-old startup,” Feld told the audience.

Feld’s forward-thinking revolution proves that circuses can dazzle audiences with willing human performers and that no animal need ever be exploited in the process. The company’s other animal-free productions are already brimming with creativity and consenting talent that transform arenas into entirely new worlds: They immerse audiences in the jungles of Jurassic World, where they encounter realistic dinosaurs, and they bring superheroes to life in Marvel Universe Live! We’re sure Ringling Bros.’ return—featuring human aerialists, clowns, and daredevils who are free to go home at the end of the day and to choose when they retire—will similarly wow spectators, all while leaving elephants and other animals in peace.

A Sign of Changing Times

Ringling Bros.’ announcement perfectly reflects our society’s intolerance of the practices of carting elephants and other nonconsenting animals across the country and bullying them into performing stupid tricks. Fifty years ago, less-informed audiences may have felt wonder at seeing a tiger jump through a hoop or laughed at a pig spinning on a pedestal. But times and tastes have changed: More people now understand that animals are sensitive individuals who deserve respect and protection. When it comes to today’s savvy consumers, the only wonder is how anyone could still find it entertaining to see an animal caged and taunted with a whip.

Ringling Bros. Could Actually Become ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’

From our inception, we were determined to end Ringling’s abuse of animals, because it truly was the saddest show on Earth. PETA and our supporters protested in nearly every city, published eyewitness footage showing elephants being beaten backstage, and worked with whistleblowers who showed the world that baby elephants are tied down and jabbed with bullhooks during training. As a result, ticket sales plummeted, cities started banning animal acts, and Ringling was forced out of the business of exploiting animals.

The Return of Ringling: How PETA Helped Shape the Circus’s Animal-Free Comeback
Members of PETA and other groups gathered outside Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on February 23, 2017, in New York City for Ringling Bros. circus’s final animal-abusing opening show, sending the exploitative circus off the best way we know how: with protest signs still held high and tissues in our hands to catch the tears of joy.

In 2020, White Oak Conservation—an organization certified by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums—took over Ringling’s former notorious Florida elephant-breeding and -training center, and it was announced that all elephants healthy enough to move to White Oak would be transferred to the vast, reputable facility. Earlier this year, the first group of elephants was indeed moved to White Oak, where they live in a herd and spend their days exploring an expansive natural habitat.

PETA hopes the animal-free version of Ringling will inspire any remaining animal-abusing circuses—like the Carden Circus, which is still exploiting elephants, tigers, camels, and others—to let only talented human performers shine under the big top. Click below to join the more than 73,000 PETA supporters who have already urged Carden to nix its cruel acts and send the animals to reputable sanctuaries:

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