This is not about the new Trump administration, although they do share the elephant logo and are equally prone to bizarre acts of illusion and deception. It’s about the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey variety of circus, which will soon be phased out because the high costs of production could not be recouped in ticket sales. I may be in the minority but I am not disappointed to see the end of circuses. As a child, going to the circus was never a fun and magical day for me. The acrobats made me nervous and the clowns weren’t particularly funny. But the thing that upset me the most, in fact it made me feel ill, was the undignified treatment of the animals. It was heartbreaking to see lions and tigers penned up in small cages until it was their turn to be whipped into doing stupid tricks. Elephants being coerced from the time they were babies to perform undignified stunts in silly costumes for the amusement of the popcorn-eating public made me hate the entire spectacle.
Cirque de Soleil occupies a slightly different position on the entertainment spectrum than animal acts. Like many other people, I have marveled at the performers’ seemingly impossible feats of athleticism in stunning costumes that dazzle and amaze. Cirque’s feats still make me nervous but they don’t evoke the kind of discomfort and even stress I felt watching old-time circus performers. The Barnum & Bailey promoters blamed the loss of elephants from their lineup as being the cause of diminished attendance but, who really knows? All I know is that the time for eliminating the use of animals for the entertainment of the ticket-buying public is long overdue. Hopefully, many zoos and marine parks will be next. There are more natural and dignified ways of protecting wildlife than putting them on display doing tricks for our amusement. We are not amused and the fact the circus is not coming to town is a cause for celebration.
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