It was once a wonder and an astonishing event that pulled people from around the country to experience together. Always a draw for families, the circus has put the power of the human body over the parade of animals that once made it famous. There's a good reason as to why the animals have taken a backseat, so to speak, to the talented clowns, trapeze artists and physical feats of the trained performers who now occupy the most successful circuses that continue to entertain and inspire crowds around the world.
Evolution of the Circus
Once upon a time, a circus was a place where the most astonishing events, animals and entertainers could be seen by people who spent most of their time working to survive. The dull days of farming, working in sweaty factories or other menial jobs could be punctuated with a sense of wonder that the annual circus could bring to a city or sleepy town. People paid their hard-earned coins to hawkers who promised a moment’s entertainment. This made sense to early entertainment entrepreneurs who saw a future in large establishments that could cater to the industrial revolution’s penny-pinching lower class. They needed some respite from their harsh reality, and the circus was a perfect fit.
Cons of Animal Use in the Circus
While the circus created jobs for singers, dancers, entertainers, clowns and misfits who could levy their socially awkward physical appearance for a livelihood, it presented a challenge for the animals. They were often overworked, beaten into submission and left to less-than-average food supplies on an irregular schedule. In May of 2017, the last elephant made treads under the legendary big top of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus due to public demand that the giant animals be retired from such grueling work in the sawdust-laden three rings of the 146-year-old circus.
Pros of Animal Use in the Circus
While the rules have changed and large animals are no longer used in circuses, many animals continue to be presented to further the education of circus attendees. By being featured in a circus, an animal’s plight or endangered position can be discussed and funds raised. If an animal is found in the wild wounded and unable to return to its original environment, a circus can humanely take care of and display them to the benefit of the animal and the education of the public. Some circus groups are intent on preserving the specific animal species they present to the public. They tend to use the funds from ticket sales to further preservation of animals in the world.