was a bittersweet moment recently when the final curtain came down on one of America’s great traditions – the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Now before you fire up the computer to respond – hear me out.
The circus, for all its flaws, brought generations of families together. Memories were made. For many, this was the definition of quality family time. I have fond memories of visiting the circus. Countless others do as well.
Maybe it is time for the circus to fold up its tent and move on. The business model is apparently no longer working.
But I have to think it’s a shame the extremists will count this as a victory. Yes, the circus’ training practices needed to improve and I believe they were on the way. But this wiped out a lot of entertainment acts and jobs that had nothing to do with the animals.
I really don’t think PETA should be celebrating this end result as a victory. We lost a great institution and generations of children will miss out on witnessing the magic of what had come to be known as the greatest show on earth.
That’s my turn. Now it’s your turn. To comment on this segment, or anything else, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2017 WECT. All rights reserved.
Statement from PETA:
Dear Mr. McNair,
I'm writing on PETA's behalf regarding your recent segment about the end of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus—we just couldn't pass up taking a turn to respond.
Circuses have existed for centuries because they've constantly evolved with the times. Changing attitudes toward human rights led circuses to phase out human freak shows long ago—and the same kind of social shift is occurring now with animal rights. Many circuses are now animal-free, with willing human performers as the stars. The show will go on at Circus Vargas, Cirque du Soleil, and others that feature jugglers, tightrope walkers, acrobats, fire-eaters, and so many others—performers who can go home at the end of the day and retire when they wish.
Ringling Bros. could have joined these progressive circuses and ditched the animal acts—but instead, it allowed its attendance to dwindle and its ticket sales to lag, while protests were held outside every show, until it finally had to shut down. The loss of jobs from its decision to call it quits is attributable to Feld Entertainment's lack of vision and unwillingness to change with the times and public taste.
Ringling Bros. is the only one to blame for its demise, and PETA heralds the end of what was the saddest show on Earth for wild animals, who will always suffer whenever they're caged, chained, and forced to live in parking lots and arena backrooms when they're not being threatened with violence into performing tricks.
A PETA representative is available to answer any questions that you might have for a follow-up story.
Emailed comments from viewers:
Hey - so I see the circus from a different perspective. There are so many undercover videos showing elephants...even baby elephants...being beaten into submission to perform. What does that say about us as humans that we promote animal cruelty for the sake of entertainment? One of the most important things we can teach our children is compassion and the circus is the opposite of compassion. Animals, that should be in their natural habitat, are boarded up to travel from place to place. I know I wouldn't want that for me so why would I want that for another living being? Kind of a do unto others, if you will.
I agree with your comments on today's My Turn Your Turn segment! I think it is sad that the Ringling Brothers Circus and others like it are closing. It is sad that so many are now without jobs and homes as a result. I think the animal training and care has evolved over the years, and today's circus animal trainers practice compassionate animal care and behavioral conditioning. I also think it is egotistical and cruel for activists like those in Peta to celebrate the misfortune of the people in circuses that are closing.
Thank you for speaking out in support of the hard-working people of the circus!
I could not agree more.
It is sad that we have allowed PETA to destroy one of the threads of our heritage. I cannot imagine children no longer being able to enjoy the thrills and delights of the circus and its imagery.
Shame on PETA for having painfully destroyed an icon of our society.
Once again the majority has failed to step forward and stop a small and terribly destructive voice of our society from altering its future.
This is not a time for celebration, but rather, a time for dismay and sadness...the passing of an American tradition no longer to be enjoyed by the generations to follow. This should be a lesson that the majority must step up and manage groups like PETA so that their impact will be for the betterment of our society and not for their own self-gratification.
I also have fond memories of the circus. From dreaming about being in the show, being thrilled by seeing the animals and sequined costumes. The clowns and stilt walkers were always amazing. It is unfortunate that my future grandchildren if there are any, will not be able to enjoy the circus.
PETA has not won here! Some animals live to work and are happier when they are working, or at least that is what experts report. Maybe some of the practices and or trainers were not the best. But I would think that some of those animals that were retired are miserable without a purpose.
One thing that I have observed as I know you have. Is that this generation has to be so stimulated with action and virtual reality. Even older amusement parks and mom and pop side shows are suffering or are no longer existing. So I can see where the circus was no longer profitable and was floundering.
I think it's sad, even some movies that I once loved. I'll watch them again and feel differently about it, because newer movies are so action filled and sensational that it is hard to not get caught up in them.
Thank you for your time, I enjoy your thought provoking segments. Keep up the good work.
I used to work and travel with the so called "Greatest Show on Earth" aka, Wringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus. I quit after 3 months of travel with them because of the unfair living conditions of their poor animals. It wasn't so much there training practices that upset me, as it was seeing the behind the scenes of the miserable animals.
We will start with the sea lions. There were 12 sea lions living in a pop out camper that had been converted into a giant bathtub. The only time these sea lions got out of this giant bathtub was for their 15 minutes in the ring. They swim on top of each other constantly.
The Lions and tigers both live in cages. They only got out of their cages for 15 minutes for their time in the ring.
The elephants probably broke my heart the most. These giant creatures live in the bottom of coliseum basements. They sway back and forth because the concrete hurts their feet beneath them.
All of these animals were very sad. They lived in cages, basements, and then traveled by freight train cars. They only got two weeks off a year to be animals and live in the Wringling Brothers farm in Florida. The rest of the year they were confined. Animals should never have to live this way. And in no world would a person who considers themselves moral or compassionate could ever justify the living conditions for these wild animals that were forced to be tamed for entertainment purposes only.
My son was born two years after I quit the circus. I never took him to see this the "greatest show on earth ". I have no regrets of never taking him to the greatest show on earth because I taught him that animals should be valued. I gave him memories other ways. He turned out just fine.
At some point we as a people must be willing to sacrifice this antiquated idea of nostalgia for the greater good of all God's creatures. I did not appreciate your segment of My Turn this evening. Frankly I felt you did not know what you were speaking about because you've never been behind the scenes of the "greatest show on earth".
Hi. I normally don't agree with you on these segments, however you hit the nail square on the head with this one. I too agree that the circus ending is not to be celebrated. I have enjoyed taking my children each year, and I am saddened that my baby boy will never be able to experience this. What's next...the end of Zoos?
I agree 100% with the commentary. This is another terrible American tragedy.
In so glad you shared the story about the closing of the circus and and the fact PETA should not be celebrating it as a victory. I had always assumed the tremendous amount of coverage and support PETA and the local animal rights activists receive when it comes to voicing their opinions about the local zoo had to be coming straight from the top. Your story has lead me to hope and believe otherwise.
I've watched your segments over the years and always believed you to be a fair and open minded individual. In the last couple of years, I have become a big supporter of our local Animal Park. It was then that I noticed the tremendous amount of unfair and very biased coverage of any story that was related to the zoo.
It had always seemed to me that anytime one of these radical PETA or animal rights activists felt like stirring up trouble for the zoo, your station has been beyond eager to jump right on it....often presenting a very biased view of a so called story based on someone's opinion who has an agenda they are eager to push. I assumed approval of reporting an opinion based story had to be given the ok by the station manager or whatever your role there is. I hope my faith can now be restored.
Before I get to the main point in today's email, I would like to start with this. If I were to go online and look at the arrest records for the date of June 1st, 2017, I am quite confident there will be multiple arrests listed for that day for numerous petty crimes, yet there will only be one that your station chose to be newsworthy that day. That particular story would be the arrest of an employee of the zoo that just so happens to be a family member as well. This person has no previous criminal background whatsoever and was actually later released without bond. He was apparently arrested for larceny that took place back in December and for some reason, the local sherif saw fit to arrest him at his place of employment, despite knowing where he lives. The only reason I can think of that would have made this newsworthy is there is someone, or multiple people there eager to advance the narrative and agenda of PETA and these radical animal rights activists (these people protest at chicken houses, packing plants, the Wilmington Rib Festival and believe fishing should be illegal). Clearly they are out of touch with reality. Had this person not been a member of the Tregembo Family and had the arrest not taken place at the zoo, I truly believe there would have been no coverage of this incident (it's not actually a story). With all the serious crimes being committed in our town, I can't understand why this one made the news. Especially given the fact this person had no prior history. What really stood out the most to me was the emphasis that was placed on his place of employment. There was much less information given on this person's girlfriend who clearly had a criminal back ground and was held under bond. Her story should have been of much greater emphasis.
Stories like this only provides further ammunition for these radical anti zoo people to push their agenda.
I feel there are some members of your staff who may very well be a supporter or member of PETA or one of the many local animal rights activist groups in town that is trying to push their agenda and use their position as a reporter to destroy the reputation of this very well known, well established and respectable business.
My hope is that any future stories regarding the zoo will first be reviewed by you and a decision made as to whether the story is in fact a newsworthy story based on facts that covers both sides of the story in a fair and unbiased view. Thank you so much for your time.