Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey presents Legends

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(Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Presents Legends is currently playing the Baltimore-Washington, DC, area through April 19. Check dates and buy tickets here.)

Ah, the circus. Just the word conjures up so many different images, thoughts, and emotions. For some, going to the circus was an indelible part of childhood. For others, it’s been something to share with their own children.

For many, the circus–and particularly Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey–has become a lightning rod for controversy. Claims of animal neglect and abuse seem to dog the circus at every turn. Protesters are a common sight outside host arenas. And online activism is a more-or-less constant force against the circus.

And it’s taken a toll. Indeed, Feld Entertainment (the company that owns Ringling Bros) recently announced that it would eliminate elephants and elephant acts from all of its shows. After 145 years, they will be pulled from all Feld-owned circuses by 2018.

Some are declaring this a success, whereas others claim it’s merely a first step in the right direction.

On the flip side, there are those who side with Ringling and maintain that elephants are a defining characteristic of the traveling circus. The claim is that if you remove them, then there’s not much left.

It’s so easy to side with one of the extremes on this issue and add your voice to the chorus. Indeed, the voices at both extremes seem to be the loudest. However, I’m honestly somewhere in the middle.

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