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Sunday, January 15, 2017

So goes the circus

Sometimes an event must be understood in a broader context, and that's how I see the announcement that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is ending its 146-year run.

It was once considered acceptable for a zoo to place animals in small cages permanently. Anyone my age remembers those. I always found them more depressing than interesting. The San Diego Zoo led a change toward open-air exhibits without cages, and among others they were followed by the North Carolina Zoo. It's better, although there is the perennial complaint at the NC Zoo that the animals are often hard to see in their faux naturale habitats.

The movie Blackfish gave focus for criticism of SeaWorld's holding killer whales in captivity. Attendance at these shows has been dropping and SeaWorld, if for no other reason than economics, will phase them out — at its parks in the U.S., at least.

I blogged a year ago about the decision of RBBB to drop its elephants. What became obvious to Feld Entertainment since then is that not enough people are interested in seeing an elephant-free circus. Attendance is driven mostly by children, and in a world where children have access to spectacular videos of animals on YouTube and are accustomed to more active entertainment such as video games, RBBB had already seen a drop in attendance before their decision to withdraw elephants. Feld saw correctly, I think, that attempts to reduce further the costs of the circus would be futile because even fewer customers would patronize what remained. Saving a business by downsizing it has a low probability of success.

RBBB will be in Raleigh next month… my final opportunity to see it. Will I go with no children in tow? I'll have to think about that.