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Friday, January 20, 2017

animal welfare activists acts bring down curtains for Ringling Bros century old show

At a time, when much is happening at Marina and entire State is chanting ‘Jallikattu’ – a chance reading of  message from Kenneth Feld, a CEO – brought some melancholy ! – it is a farewell message, a message about conclusion by May 2017 !!

The film Kumki had an elephant as a main character, though the storyline dwelt around the hero.  Elephants are not new to tinseldom. In  ‘Nalla Neram’, a MGR starrer  released in 1972, the storyline was around choice between love (his wife) and friendship (his loyal and devoted pet elephants). Rajnikanth and Sripriya too had a hit number – Annai Or Alayam, the story of a hunter  who helps the baby elephant to reach the mother elephant. Perhaps that song ‘Amma nee sumantha pillai’ or was it Aimbathilum aasai varum ~ the last of TMS singing for Illayaraja ?  Kamal’s attachment with his pet elephant coming in the way of his love for Sripriya was the plot for Ram Lakshman.

In earlier days, Elephants and Bulls were featured repeatedly in Tamil films as the story be it mythological or village themes, mingled with life of animals.  Slowly mythological films faded, more specifically Animal Welfare movement came into fore doing propaganda on the perceived ill-treatment to animals in movies.  The film industry spoofed this concern.  In Kamal / Simran starrer ‘Pammak Sambandham’ -  a group of women activists, led by the heroine would barge into the studio holding placards shouting that animals are tortured.  Kamal would be shown seated on a platform not directly touching the bull ~ there would be a couple of similar other scenes too.  Animal welfare has strangled so much that one can notice that recent films have a disclaimer that animals were not used / tortured and in mega Bahubali, the bull taming scene was a graphic affair. 

Ringling brothers  were seven American siblings of German and French descent who transformed their small touring company of performers into one of America's largest circuses. Born in McGregor, Iowa and raised in Baraboo, Wisconsin, they were the children of harness maker Heinrich Friedrich August Ringling of Hanover, Germany, and Marie Salome Juliar of Ostheim, in Alsace.  They merged their Ringling Brothers Circus with America's other leading circus troupes, ultimately creating the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

The news now is that the famed American traveling-circus company, would fold its tent forever in May 2017. According to Ringling’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, the decision was forced by declining ticket sales and high costs.

The sons of August Rüngeling, in 1882 formed a song-and-dance troupe, the Classic and Comic Concert Co., and went on the road with it for two seasons. They began adding circus acts to their show, and they organized their first small circus, in  1884, in their hometown of Baraboo, Wisconsin; from there they toured the U.S. Midwest. Their progress was slow until they acquired their first elephant in 1888, after which the circus expanded rapidly.  Now perhaps the same elephant has unwittingly caused their downfall !

Kenneth Feld, the chief executive of Feld Entertainment which produces the circus, noted on the Ringling website that ticket sales had been declining for a while but dropped dramatically after the elephants left the show in May 2016. The show retooled itself and added new human acts but was still full of lions, tigers, alpacas, llamas, and dogs among other animal species; but the drop in sales and high operating costs “made the circus an unsustainable business,” Feld wrote on the website.

There’s no question that it was time for the circus to retire its elephants —just as it was time for SeaWorld to retire its killer whales and stop making them perform. Many animal welfare advocates believe that no wild animal should be used in an entertainment show. For a decade, Ringling fought back against lawsuits and evidence from animal welfare groups and elephant experts that hauling elephants across the country in rail cars and getting them to  perform constituted cruel treatment. Ringling always maintained that its elephants were treated with the utmost care.

Ringling’s audiences had been shrinking for several years, reflecting changing tastes and sensibilities in its audiences and, notably, the influence of negative publicity generated by animal rights and animal welfare organizations, which had staged protests and filed hundreds of legal complaints against Ringling Bros. and other circuses over alleged animal abuse, particularly of elephants. Had Ringling continued with its elephant act, it would not have been able to bring the circus to any venue in California with its changed rules.  Sad is the fact that Ringling, which has been enterprising enough to stay in business for more than a century, could not transform its circus into an elephant-free entertainment feature that could thrive in a world of children and adults.

Ringling’s final performance will take place on May 21 in Uniondale, New York. So what do you feel ~ though, for sure, we are unlike to watch them perform there !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

20th Jan 2017.

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