The Greatest Show On Earth

By Steve Vertlieb: While I love animals, and certainly have no desire to see them treated cruelly, I can’t help but mourn the loss of the Ringling Bros-Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Perhaps we didn’t know any better these past one hundred forty-six years or, even worse, didn’t want to know about how circus animals were denied their freedom, or treated. Yet, it seems that a moment of historical innocence…an entire chapter, if you will…is passing us by, and leaving our lives forever.

The circus has been an integral part of our youthful memory since the beginning of things. It is difficult to recall a time when the passage of childhood into maturity was not marked by a joyous trip to the circus where wild animals would thrill millions of children, while daring trapeze artists flew “through the air with the greatest of ease,” and clowns of all shapes and sizes brought tears of laughter and happiness to “children of all ages.”

In a time of anger, bitterness, cynicism, and sadness…I cannot help but wonder if this passing of an iconic tradition leaves us better or worse….or if this passing is yet another nail in the coffin of eternal optimism, dreams, and of hope in a world that has grown somehow bleak and sad. Perhaps we didn’t know any better this last century-and-a-half. Perhaps we didn’t want to know…and yet, I cannot help but mourn the loss of a generations old tradition that left an indelible smile upon childhood’s memory. I cannot help but mourn the fading glimpse of a world that was, indeed, more innocent…yet undeniably happier…a world that is soon to become “Gone With The Wind.”

Yes, it’s the end, after 146 years…The Greatest Show On Earth will be no more in May of this year.

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52 thoughts on “The Greatest Show On Earth

  1. I just saw a report about the RBB&B closure on a German news program, where they interviewed the current director of Circus Krone, which is Germany’s biggest circus and one of the biggest in Europe and which still has wild animals, including elephants. The director said that audiences still want to see animal performances and addressed criticisms by pointing out that some of the most abusive practices have long been abandoned. He also said that the six remaining elephants of Circus Krone are all more than fifty years old and will not be replaced once they die off. This seems like a sensible policy to me.

    I’d post a link to the video, but it isn’t online yet.

  2. Sorry for the delay


    I knew the question wasn’t serious from the implication that firearms would be the mechanism of choice for conflict resolution in a more libertarian world.


    I’m sure that sentiment can be found in certain circles. IME, libertarians are just as likely to use boycotts against companies with poor policies as any other group.


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