After more than one hundred years behind cage bars, the animals on the packaging of Barnum’s Animal Crackers are now free to roam as they please. The new design keeps the same coloring and lettering style as one would expect. However, instead of showing the circus animals in a boxcar on their way to a circus act, the new box design consists of a zebra, elephant, lion, giraffe, and gorilla walking side-by-side in green pastures, apparently free to roam in their natural habitat.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is proudly taking responsibility for the change, as they had been fighting Nabisco to change the design for decades. “Given the egregious cruelty inherent in circuses that use animals and the public’s swelling opposition to the exploitation of animals used for entertainment, we urge Nabisco to update its packaging in order to show animals who are free to roam in their natural habitats,” PETA said in its letter to the company, according to AP. However, Nabisco, the company behind Barnum’s Animals Crackers, says that this is simply a change that they would have eventually made as part of their branding “evolution” in relation to the times.
While the redesign of the packaging for the crackers is surely a monumental win for the animal rights activists, it raises awareness to an even bigger win that might be coming to fruition- the end of the circus industry. Simply put, if society is becoming much more sensitive to animals rights, enough to demand a change to the box design for Barnum’s Animal Crackers, how long will the circus industry fare in today’s world? The answer is: not for long. The circus industry has already seen a drastic decline in support and sales in the last decade, let alone the last five years. As the number of vegans increases, the end of the circus as we know it is near. In fact after 146 years, The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (the namesake for the Barnum’s Animal Crackers brand), held their last performance ever to be made on May 21, 2017. Once deemed the “Greatest Show on Earth”, the circus act simply could not manage to stay in business. With dwindling sales and opposition from PETA and other animal rights groups, the end was inevitable.
The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is not the only circus to shut down. Other smaller-scale shows, such as the Cole Bros. Circus (a traveling circus) and the Big Apple Circus (a New York-based show), have also experienced a decrease in sales and support from society. The Cole Bros. Circus stopped their performances in 2016, and the Big Apple Circus suspended all acts in 2017 due to bankruptcy.
The decline of the circus industry is a direct result of the change in times. Back in the day, over a century ago, people would rave over the circus acts, lining up eagerly to get their seat at the “Greatest Show on Earth”. See, the circus provided entertainment and exposure to a new experience that had never been done before. Before circuses, animals such as lions, tigers, and elephants had only been seen in newspapers as fuzzy, black-and-white photographs. Television and the internet simply did not exist, at least not at the level at which we enjoy these luxuries today. Circuses, therefore, allowed people to see these exotic animals up close and personal.
Nowadays, thanks to the advancement of technology, most of us have seen HD videos and/or photos of these animals, which allows us to have the experience of “seeing” them without having to remove them from their natural habitats and put them in cages.
Though the decline of the circus industry can also be attributed to a number of other factors, such as the rise of the digital arts (online gaming, HD movies, etc.), increases in circus ticket prices (sometimes as high as $150 per ticket), and higher taxes and upfront expenses for circus shows, the declining industry perfectly reflects that our society simply won’t tolerate the caging and chaining of animals for the circus. As more and more people are either switching over to a vegan lifestyle or becoming more aware and supportive of the animal rights movement, the use of animals for human entertainment is becoming an idea that can no longer be supported.
If the circus industry wants to survive, company leaders must evolve with the times and listen to the voice of society.
Cirque du Soleil, anyone?
A common line often heard by vegans is “what difference does one person going vegan make?” And yes, from a vegan perspective, it can sometimes seem like the overwhelming numbers of meat-eaters make it that one person going vegan is merely a drop in the ocean.