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Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus could be making comeback – but without the animals

·2 min read

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which shut down in 2017 after a storied 146-year run of three-ring entertainment around the world, could be making a comeback.

Officials from Florida-based Feld Entertainment, which owns the circus operation, said during a recent panel discussion that a new version of the circus without animals is expected to make its debut in 2023.

Many observers believe that animal rights protests targeting Ringling Bros. contributed to a decline in ticket sales that led the company to cease operations. It grew famous on the strength of animal trainers like Gunther Gebel-Williams, among others, working with lions and tigers. The company dropped elephants from its shows in 2016 and said at the time that ticket sales declined more than expected.

A clown holds up his cellphone to record the end of the final show of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus on May 21, 2017, in Uniondale, N.Y. Feld Entertainment is developing plans to to resume circus operations without animals in 2023.
A clown holds up his cellphone to record the end of the final show of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus on May 21, 2017, in Uniondale, N.Y. Feld Entertainment is developing plans to to resume circus operations without animals in 2023.

“In 2023 we will be relaunching Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus,” Feld’s chief operating officer Juliette Feld Grossman told the VenuesNow Conference in Seattle last week, according to a report published by venuesnow.com.

According to the report, Grossman got choked up as she spoke. “You can see it’s emotional and exciting for us as a family. We really feel that Ringling Bros. has incredible relevance to today’s audience.”

Nicole Zimmerman, a Feld spokeswoman, said the company is “still in the planning phase for the relaunch of the Greatest Show on Earth” and an official announcement about the return of the circus is expected sometime in 2022.

Mourning a loss: In a city synonymous with the circus, shock and sorrow over Ringling Bros. closing

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus elephants walk from the trainyard to their winter quarters in Venice in this 1991 photo.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus elephants walk from the trainyard to their winter quarters in Venice in this 1991 photo.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which organized many of the protests, cheered the announcement that no animals would be featured in the new circus shows.

“The exciting announcement sends a powerful message to the entire industry, something that PETA’s been saying for decades: Cruelty doesn’t belong in the circus or in any other form of entertainment,” the organization said in a statement.

For years, PETA representatives and other groups claimed the circus mistreated the elephants, tigers, lions and other animals featured in its shows.

While Ringling Bros. struggled before it shut down, the Canadian company Cirque du Soleil exploded with dozens of shows around the world, all without animals.

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This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to return without animals