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.
The operators of a nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing performing tigers were recently charged with 17 felonies after an April 22 raid of their home and tiger sanctuary allegedly turned up numerous health and safety violations as well as numerous dead tigers in various states of decay.
On a web site for Tiger Rescue, John Weinhart and Marla Smith claimed they had been rescuing movie and other performing tigers for over 30 years. But when police raided their property they found the carcasses of 88 dead tigers as well as numerous leopard and tiger cubs living in unhealthy conditions.
Prosecutors said that Weinhart and Smith had two full-grown tigers in their yard and, for good measure, two alligators living in their bathtub. The couple were charged with child endangerment due to the presence of their 8-year-old son who was removed from their custody.
If convicted, both Weinhart and Smith could receive up to 16 years in jail.
Couple who ran animal sanctuary charged. Associated Press, May 22, 2003.
Many Dead Tigers Are Found at Big Cat ‘Retirement Home’. New York Time, April 2003.
Neglected Tiger, Leopard Cubs On Mend. CBS News, April 24, 2003.
90 Tigers Found Dead At Calif. Home. CBS News, April 25, 2003.
The Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for setting a fire at a Chicago-area food store that had been used in an illegal exotic animal ring.
Czimer’s Game and Seafood in Lockport, Illinois, had been used by a ring of individuals illegally trading in endangered animals. The store sold the tiger and leopard meat killed by William Kapp. Kapp was indicted for his part in the scheme and convicted on 17 counts of trading in and selling endangered animals. Fifteen other people, including the owner of Czimer’s, were convicted of violating federal laws forbidding trade in endangered species.
The Animal Liberation Front issued a communique that read,
Under the cover of darkness, Animal Liberation Front operatives infiltrated the roof of Czimer’s Game and Seafood, setting it on fire. This action further extended the sentence handed down by federal courts on April 3, 2003 for William Knapp and Kevin Ramsey killing innocent tigers and illegally selling the meat at this store. Your crimes have not gone unnoticed and you are not innocent. These helpless animals were shot (murdered) in cages at point blank. Be careful, because we know who you are and where you live. Pray for extended jail time and enjoy your stay you sick fucking bastards.
Until the innocent can live in peace,
Animal liberation front
Of course — the people responsible for this illegal animal ring are going to prison, so why not go the extra mile and endanger the lives of a few firefighters by torching the Czimer’s building as well? Makes perfect sense.
Animal rights group claims credit for torching Chicago Store. Mike Robinson, The Associated Press, April 5, 2003.
Animal rights group claims it set store fire. Annie Sweeney, Chicago-Sun Times, April 6, 2003.
In the latest legal assault on circuses, in August the Orange County, South Carolina county commission approved a ban on circuses and other forms of entertainment within unincorporated areas of the county.
The ordinance specifically forbids the “display” of elephants, camels, lions, tigers, dolphins and 11 other animals for entertainment purposes. According to a Chapel Hill Herald story on the ordinance, “display” is defined as “any exhibition, act, circus, public show, trade show, photographic opportunity, carnival ride, parade, race, performance or similar undertaking in which animals are required to perform tricks, fight, wrestle or participate in performances for the amusement or entertainment of an audience.”
As Orange County commissioner Barry Jacobs freely admitted to the Chapel Hill Herald, the legislation was pushed through for purely symbolic purposes. Jacobs said,
I realize in a lot of ways that we did was more symbolic than real, since there’s little evidence that we have circuses in Orange County. But I think sometimes it’s important to support principles that are brought forward to us by citizens or that we ourselves already espouse.
Orange County, South Carolina bans circuses. Rob Shapard, Chapel Hill Herald, August 16, 2001.