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On my glorious day off, I did practically nothing. Laundry, changed the air filter in my room, read a book, ate, slept. It was wonderful. Jameson and I walked to Fairway...an easy short trip made infinitely frustrating by huge piles of snow on the sidewalks and rude motorists splashing us as we tried to navigate the sludge. But hey, Fairway! I got some tasty cookies, Irish soda bread, and other treats :)

On load in day, I walked to a nearby mall for new sneakers. It's only a mile walk but it was made treacherous by unsalted sidewalks.

The train yard is incredibly icy as well, with several inches of ice on and around the tracks.

Opening day went well. The next day we woke early for the kiddie show and were blindsided by some saddening news:

Beginning in 2018, Ringling Bros. will no longer include Asian elephants in its touring shows.

(Press release is HERE, ABC's news article is HERE)
An interview with Mr. Feld on his reasons for making this groundbreaking decision (CLICK HERE to watch). He explains the main points for his decision, including:

A) A shift in consumer sentiments toward seeing elephants in the circus, and

B) Contrasting legislation across the country regarding how elephants may be handled or shown, and the difficulty of making those changes (sometimes weekly) to abide by the laws of every state the circus visits.

Another short video explanation of Feld's decision and plans for the elephants.

Nicole and Alana Feld held an all-cast meeting directly after the kiddie show to make sure that everyone was informed of the details of this unprecidented event. They assured us, in no uncertain terms, that the decision was NOT made because of Animal Rights pressure, and that the company would continue the battle against the Animal Rights agenda. We all sat and listened quietly, and I think many of us agreed understood the reasons for the Felds' decision. But that doesn't mean that everyone is happy to see the elephants go after 145 years of inclusion in the circus. Throughout the week, emotions and opinions from circus and non-circus people raged back and forth across social media.

Personally, I felt a wide range of emotions. Sadness to hear that the elephants--who are not just animals but also our fellow performers and our friends--will be leaving us. Frustration and a grudging acceptance of the company's reasons for doing this. Pride in working for a family-owned company that thinks ahead, listens to its customers, and makes decisions based on more than its bottom line. More pride in having had the privelege of working alongside Ringling's amazing animal handlers, vets, and trainers, all of whom are talented and dedicated individuals. I have to admit, I felt a little anger as well. Anger and helpless frustration for the widespread ignorance that has ultimately led to this decision.

Andrea Robinson, an animal handler on the Gold Unit, was able to beautifully summarize what many circus people are thinking and feeling:

"Uneducated activism is one of the most dangerous forces of human kind. Blind leading the blind without question, and without research is a horrifying thing. Animal activist groups are winning this battle, and soon there will be no connection with these amazing creatures left and worse yet, no where to put them. Soon they will be shutting down zoos and wildlife parks. Places designed for education so that people feel a connection with these animals to care enough about preserving their natural habitat.

Where will they go? I don't know if you've seen 'the wild' lately, but it is not safe, and not protected. It is not 'how it should be' and hasn't been for some time. These groups that protest want them to go back to the wild, but there is none to go back to. Zero dollars out of millions go into protecting what little environment is left for these amazing creatures. To take care of elephants especially requires a level of commitment and dedication that [few] will ever understand let alone be able to carry out.

I feel privileged to have spent the years that I did being able to work with these amazing creatures. No one chooses to work with animals to be able to abuse them. I have nothing but kind things to say about the level of care, treatment and commitment of all of the animals during my time at the circus. I did see horrible mental and physical abuse towards the animal caretakers at the hands of these protesters. I had my life threatened, things thrown at me, I have been shoved, yelled at and spit on. They picket with photos that are 40-50 years old from obscure locations that have no connection to the organization. They were not even educated enough to call out the right continent that they would like us to send the elephants back to. There is now, and has been a war waged by an ever growing group of people who wholeheartedly believe they are doing the right thing. It's hard to reason with that. I admire their dedication and perseverance for what they believe is the right thing for the animals. It is what we all want. But the trainers, caretakers, and keepers are the real heroes in my book. They are the ones making a real difference.

Johnathan Lee Iverson, Ringmaster on the Blue Unit, sums up another of the frustrations that many have voiced:

"How many of us ever bothered to educate ourselves and those around us? How many bothered to contact local & state representatives? How many bothered simply to sign petitions or even chime in on a message board to combat Animal Rights nonsense? FACT, no organization has fought harder or longer for the LIFE of the traditional American Circus than Ringling Bros. and its parent company. While many sat idle or critical of every thing Ringling ever thought under its latest producers or occupied yourselves with in fighting, the writing was on the wall. The American Circus is in its greatest peril and it's not merely the fault of the monsters at the gate, but the idle citizens therein."

These viewpoints are similar to mine, which is why I've quoted them here. There are many other opinions out there, as I'm sure you will see around the internet. But I hope you will take a moment to watch Mr. Feld's interview with FoxBusiness, and perhaps visit the CEC website, because if you actually care about the elephants (as opposed to the money or the politics) you will want to know how their owners will be caring for them in the future.

This news was and continues to be a hard pill to swallow. But we still have three years...perhaps something can be done. In the meantime, I hope that people will continue to enjoy seeing the elephants <3

Anyway, it was snowing pretty hard when we returned to the train after the meeting. The evening show went well, although the mood was a little strange due to the news about the elephants.


The six pack went by like most six packs do. Saturday was basically sold out all day.
It was nice to have a big, energetic crowd.


Sunday was similar. Kaitlin, the friend who lent us her apartment in Brooklyn last week, came to the midday show. It was great to finally meet her in person, and hear more about how she and Jameson met (both worked at UNO's to pay rent while in college). Thanks for coming to see us!!

(photo courtesy Kaitlin)

Our poor Clown Alley suffered terribly on Sunday, with half the members sick and the other half working through the pain of physical injuries. Can you imagine trying to do physical comedy when you might yarf at any second?? Just watching Taylor vault from the rigging during Blowoff makes my stomach turn :P Our clowns are amazing and hard core.

At this point we've had four six packs in a row. Next we go to Newark NJ, where we will have a Thursday opening. That means at least two days "off" for everyone.
Hopefully it's enough time for people to recover and rest.

Other stuff:

Ever wondered what it's like to be a Human Cannonball? Watch Gemma's GoPro video to find out firsthand!

Rome has taken some fantastic photos this week!

Luna trying to "decorate" Mabel during Animal Open House!
(photo courtesy Adria)

Elephant handler Bernadette with Siam (left) and Baby (right). Baby was retired at the end of the last tour. I miss her.
(photo courtesy Bernadette)


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 9th, 2015 12:17 pm (UTC)
Thank you Thank You Thank you, for the comments and your opinion regarding the elephants on your show and the recent sad news about them. I was wondering where you and the other members of your show felt about the situation.

I too know that the animals on most circuses are well treated and not abused, but some activists are just so blind and everything is black and white.

I really don't think the animal activists know the whole story, or even want to, in most cases, about the breeding programs and the problem with the animal being hunted and killed in the wild. They latch on to an idea and noone can tell them different, not even showing them different changes their minds.

I do wonder if the next target will be the tiger show or even the horses. I certainly hope not, It's not a circus with just acrobats and clowns, (and of course the band) the animals really do add so much to the show.

The circus has done so much for some of the animal populations over the last century, I don't doubt that some of those animals would be extinct by now. I have great respect and awe for the people who work with the animals on any show. It is so obvious how much they love their animals and how much the animals love them back.

Thank you.
Mar. 9th, 2015 01:27 pm (UTC)
Thanks Donnad. It's good to know that not everyone thinks we're some sort of evil animal-torturing organization. I'm no animal trainer, but I have been here for three years and have never seen any type of animal abuse. And you can bet I wouldn't be working here if there was anything like that happening.

It's somewhat understandable that folks might carry an image of the "early circus" in their minds. The stereotypical coloring book version with the animals in tiny gilt cages, being paraded down the streets. Or the lion tamer with a whip and chair. I won't deny that, in its beginnings (the late 1700s in America), the circus was likely not an ideal place for exotic animals. Little was understood about their care, and the animals were indeed taken from the wild (hence the lion tamer needing a whip and chair; these were wild untamed predators). And when a circus went under economically, how much worse were the animals' lives then?

I wish more people would get their heads out of the past and look at the NOW. Now we know so much more about elephants, tigers, camels, and other exotic animals. We know what they need to eat, and how much exercise to stay healthy. We recognize their intelligence, and provide stimulating activities so that they won't become bored or surly.

Because we are capable of providing better care for these animals, they live better lives. At this point, almost all of Ringling's elephants have been either bought from logging companies or bred in captivity. They were not dragged from the wild or ripped from their mother's side. They were born and raised in a safe place with lots of open space and good food. The tigers have also been raised exclusively in captivity by humans, and because of that they are accustomed to human company. The long and short of it is, Ringling Bros. has the knowledge and resources to properly care for these animals and make sure that they have a fulfilling life.

Another reality of the NOW: as wonderful as it would be to set these animals free, there is nowhere safe for them to go. Both elephants and tigers are endangered, and their traditional habitats have been basically destroyed. tigers used to roam the forests of India and Asia. China's population has doubled in the past 40 years, and its forests are 99% gone. It's a fact that there are more tigers living captive in the US than there are living in the wild.

All of this is the result of human ignorance. The way animals were treated in the past, the misuse of natural land areas, and on and on. We can only move forward from our current situation; what's done is done. That's why the Felds' work is so important. They are trying to save what's left. They're trying to make a change for a better future. I really wish more folks could understand this.

Edited at 2015-03-09 01:29 pm (UTC)
Mar. 9th, 2015 02:56 pm (UTC)
I am a lot older than you, so I see the elephant issue from a different prospective. The so called AR movement is part of a larger liberal movement that hates the U.S. military, Christians, the Flag and everything this country stands for. Bill Mahr is a prime example of who I am talking about. He is a board member of peta and an atheist. These liberals also want to control speech, what we eat, what we drive and what kind of entertainment we can see. This country was a lot different 30 or 40 years ago.The liberal hatred for this country is taught in colleges . This week at a college in CA. the students voted to ban the American Flag. That would never have happened even 20 years ago. There is a famous line from an old movie " I am mad as hell and I can't take it any more". That's how I feel about the liberals in this country today.
Mar. 9th, 2015 04:23 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing your opinion, I appreciate your perspective even if I can't second it (having not been around 30-40 years ago!).

I don't affiliate myself politically, which you would probably find disappointing/stereotypical of my generation. Yet I hope you will believe me when I say I respect your feelings.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )