Animal Defenders International is asking Triangle residents to shun the big top, even as it’s coming down.
The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced in January that after 146 years, the curtain was coming down on “The Greatest Show on Earth” and Raleigh would be one of its last stops.
ADI asked area residents to stay away from the circus “and avoid supporting an industry that involves cruelty to animals.”
The circus’ parent company, Feld Entertainment, said its animals receive excellent care.
“Once again animal rights extremists are distorting the excellent care Ringling Bros. provides for all of the animals with the circus,” said Stephen Payne, vice president for communication for Feld Entertainment. “All of our animals receive outstanding veterinary care, exercise and plenty of nutritious food and water. We are inspected by animal welfare officials in almost every city we visit, including Raleigh.
“I would urge all Raleigh-area families to come and see for themselves that all of the animals with Ringling Bros. are thriving in our care. This will be the final time Ringling Bros. visits Raleigh and all of our performers and crew look forward to putting on an exciting show that fans will remember for many years to come.”
The iconic American spectacle was felled by a variety of factors, company executives said. Declining attendance combined with high operating costs, along with changing public tastes and prolonged battles with animal rights groups all contributed to its demise.
After a long and costly legal battle, the company removed elephants from its shows in May 2016 and sent the animals to live on a conservation farm in Central Florida.
By the time elephants were removed from the shows, public opinion had shifted. Los Angeles prohibited the use of bull-hooks by elephant trainers and handlers, as did Oakland, Calif.
Asheville banned wild or exotic animals from performing in the city owned, 7,600-seat U.S. Cellular Center.
Studies of the use of wild animals in traveling circuses show that circuses cannot meet the physical or behavioral needs of wild animals, ADI said in a news release.
“Animals are confined in small spaces, deprived of physical and social needs, spending excessive amounts of time shut in transporters,” ADI alleged. “These animals are often seen behaving abnormally: rocking, swaying and pacing, all indicating that they are in distress and not coping with their environment.
ADI called on supporters to warn audiences of “the behind-the-scenes suffering of animals in traveling circuses” when the circus arrives in Raleigh in February.
“Keeping wild animals like lions, tigers and bears shut in small spaces, then beating them to perform tricks for human entertainment shames us all,” said Matt Rossell, ADI Campaigns Director.
“When families find out about the routine abuses that go on behind the scenes at circuses, they will be shocked and will not want to expose their children to this cruelty,” said ADI volunteer Karen Nyreen.