In an effort to try to stay relevant given all the entertainment options Americans have at their fingers, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has unveiled a new format for one of its touring groups that includes eliminating its tiger act altogether.
Ringling Bros. chief executive Kenneth Feld said the elimination of the tiger act was not a concession to animal rights activists, but rather an attempt to appeal more to the core audience of circus goers which Feld told the Tampa Bay Tribune constitutes mothers with young children. Other changes include a more theater-like environment including a 24-foot video screen. Ringling Bros. other touring group will keep the tiger act until the results of this experiment are available to the company.
According tot he Tribune,
But in a clear message to those who criticize Ringling’s treatment of animals, the elephants get speaking roles on the 24-foot video screen. Someone gives the animals voiced-over words, telling audiences that their act is based on naturalistic behaviors of elephants and poking fun at the animal rights issue.
University of Texas professor Janet Davis, however, told the Tribune that the elimination of the tiger act is a victory of sorts for the animal rights movement,
The animal rights groups have won in a way. There is less emphasis on animals in the new show.
Certainly animal rights groups were opposed to the tiger act, but this is no more a victory for animal rights groups anymore than the decline in the number of hunters is, even though they are both trends the animal rights movement is happy to see.
Rather they are both changes brought about by larger cultural, social and economic changes in the United States. Frankly, I’m surprised that as many people visit circuses every year as apparently do to keep Ringling Bros. and other circuses going.
Ringling In A New Era. Randy Diamond, Tampa Bay Tribune, January 5, 2006.