PALMETTO, Fla. — Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages...
"The Greatest Show on Earth" is planning a comeback. And this time around, it's leaving behind one of its most controversial elements.
Leaders from Palmetto-based Feld Entertainment, which owns and operates the show, first teased the return of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus during a conference in Seattle last week, VenuesNow reports.
The family entertainment giant's chairman and CEO, Kenneth Feld, and Juliette Feld Grossman, the company's chief operating officer, reportedly divulged during a question-and-answer session that casting was underway for a new, animal-free version of the iconic circus show to launch in 2023.
"Right now, we are currently still in the planning phase for the relaunch of The Greatest Show On Earth, which will not include animals," Feld Entertainment said in a statement to 10 Tampa Bay. “An official announcement will be made in 2022.”
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus closed its curtains in 2017 after entertaining audiences across the world for 146 years. The decision came amid struggles with declining attendance, shrinking attention spans and shifting social pressure brought to bear by activists who argued the animals were poorly treated.
A year prior to closing, the circus removed elephants from its performances, and according to Feld Entertainment, ticket sales dropped drastically. The company had battled animal rights activists for years in costly court skirmishes, even winning a $15.75 million judgment against them in 2015. But the circus ultimately lost the larger fight with public opinion.
The retired circus elephants lived at a conservation in Polk County for several years before transferring to a refuge in Yulee.
Now with talks of an animal-free return, PETA seems to be putting its support behind Ringling.
Here's what the organization said in a statement to 10 Tampa Bay:
Ringling is back, but this time, PETA may just be in attendance, because the company has abandoned the chains, cages, and whips in favor of hiring only human performers—who are allowed to go home to their families at night. The animal-free version of Ringling may well inspire any remaining animal-abusing circuses to let aerialists, jugglers, clowns, and other talented human performers shine under the big top.