For almost 150 years, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has toured the United States, entertaining patrons with live animal acts, human acrobatics, clowning, and illusion. It’s a longstanding tradition and a part of our cultural fabric, and it ends as of May 2017.
Over that same period of years, we can track a marked change in the way that the general public views animals — both wild and domestic — especially in regards to their use in human entertainment. While certain organizations and people hail this closure as a win for animal rights, just as they did with the original announcement that elephants would no longer be a part of Ringling’s touring team, there’s an argument to be made that the reality isn’t so clear cut or simple.
Reality rarely is. I would submit that the closure also has implications for conservation, outreach, and how we relate to the endangered animals we are rarely exposed to, and do not often see.