Ringling Bros Circus Calling it Quits. Who is Next?

After more than 100 years in business, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will be shutting its doors for good. CEO Kenneth Feld of Feld Entertainment (the company that has owned the circus for the last 50 years) said:

“I have made the difficult business decision that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® will hold its final performances in May of this year.”

Last year, Ringling Brothers shut down the elephant show altogether, after years of lawsuits and accusations centered around the treatment of the animals. In 2011, Feld Entertainment agreed to pay $270,000 to the US Department of Agriculture for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act. They did not admit wrongdoing, but promised to update training procedures internally (whatever that meant). They had originally planned to retire the elephants in 2018, but it appears that will be happening sooner than later at this point.

Ringling Brothers’ problems point to broader issues at play in the “animal entertainment” space as a whole, and they’re not the only company feeling the pain. Sea World’s third quarter financial report shows steep losses, and the recent death of Tilikum is a reminder of the very public claims made against the treatment of orcas at the park.

The question is obvious. Are shows like these still relevant in today’s society? Has the demand to watch an elephant balance on a ball or a whale do tricks for a crowd lost its appeal? The numbers and public sentiment seem to hint in that direction, but only time will tell.

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