Ringling Brothers Circus - The Best Show on Earth?
My girls had never been to a circus, so when our generous neighbor came over with free tickets to “The Greatest Show on Earth”, I couldn’t pass them up. I remember checking in the past when Ringling Brothers came to San Diego and I was appalled at how expensive the tickets were. I was very excited to take my daughters, 3- and 4-years old; I love to see the excitement on their beautiful faces when we do something new.
I will save my opinion of the show for just a minute and just give some quick background information about Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey and their animal care.
Ringling Bros Animal Care
Ringling Brothers is committed to animal care and conservation. They employ an expert staff of veterinary doctors and animal care specialists who travel along with the animals and provide regular examinations and vaccinations to the animals.
Ringling Brothers is also involved in the conservation of the Asian elephant, an endangered species. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation was established in 1995 and is a global leader in the reproduction, research and retirement of the Asian elephant.
As for the animals on tour, they are all provided with healthy, nourishing meals that are shipped fresh to each city Ringling Bros. visits.
The relationship between animals and humans is built on mutual respect, trust and affection according to Ringling Bros.. Their training methods are based on reward and repetition. The trainers teach the animals routines that show off their natural abilities and their beauty, as well as their distinctive behaviors. In many locations that the show travels to, they offer visitors the chance to see their animals close up and witness the strong bond of trust and affection that the animals have for their trainers and handlers; this Animal Open House did not occur here in Miami.
We had a really great time at the show. We sat in the upper balcony level, which was pretty darn high, but it wasn’t bad because the arena’s seating is very steep and we had a clear view straight-on to the middle of all the action.
I watched my daughters’ faces just as much as I watched the show, if not more. Their faces just lit up - that's what I love about doing these type of things with them!
The show started at 7:30, which is normally their bed time, so they were excited to be staying up late, too! All of the performances were entertaining, from the clowns to the jugglers and the elephant-riding ladies to the tutu-wearing dancing dogs!
Toward the end were the tigers. There must have been about 10 tigers in the ring with one trainer and his long whip. This is where things went downhill for me. No, no one got mauled! I really watched the tiger performance and I did not like what I was seeing. My oldest daughter asked me what the long black thing was that the trainer was hitting the tigers with and why he was hitting them. I told her it was just how the tigers knew what to do for the show, or something vague like that.
Meanwhile, I was observing the trainer whacking these gigantic, beautiful, ferocious creatures with his whip and they would jump down off their stands very submissively. The tigers actually appeared (to me) to be scared of the trainer. Now if the tiger didn’t do what was being asked of it, a “helper” would poke the tiger with some sort of rod from outside the netting of the ring and give it a little shove. Some of the tigers sat there with mouths open in a manner that looked angry.
Perhaps that was part of the “act”, but I wasn’t sure. The part where they acted scared of the trainer didn’t seem at all like an act. It made me think that if, during the show, they acted that way, it must mean that outside of the show, when training, they must get beat. Bad. I felt badly for the poor tigers and I secretly wished one would teach the trainer a lesson.
I suddenly realized why there were so many people protesting outside of the arena prior to the show. I sympathized. I don’t think I’ll become a protester, but I do think that that was my last visit to the best show on earth.