It has taken a few days for this to sink in. Many of you have given so much time and effort over the years to educate the public about the horrendous abuse that circus animals endure. Despite our efforts, it was often discouraging because it seemed like no matter how hard we tried, relief for these animals was nothing but a distant dream. I believe things changed in 2013 when over 100 of you stood in the middle of an ice storm to protest the use of animals in the circus. The layer of ice on the street sign in our group picture from that year told the story of your dedication. And in 2014, we held the nation’s largest Ringling protest when over 250 of you came out to stand, once again, in freezing temperatures. The CEO of Feld even wrote a letter-to-the-editor to the Indy Star that year in an act of desperation. Activists nationwide have been protesting Ringling for years, but I truly believe the echoes of our 2014 Indianapolis protest can be heard in their announcement this week that they will end their 146 year tradition of abusing animals. That year, I remember saying to many of you that if Ringling faces this kind of opposition in Indianapolis, they know they’ll never be safe to operate anywhere. And they weren’t.
The significance of this can’t be overstated, and it also acts as a complete vindication of all the work you have done and the time spent on this over the years (not to mention all the troll comments you had to read telling you that you were wasting your time). You shed tears for these animals and turned those tears into action. We stood side by side holding signs, making new friends and smiling for pictures. But inside we were thinking about what the animals were going through. The days following a protest always gave me an exhilarating feeling that we were close to shutting them down, but that always turned into hopelessness as one year became the next and plans for the next protest began in earnest.
I am not naïve enough to think that Feld will do what is right for the animals in the future. They will do what is profitable. But I am very hopeful that most of the animals will find their way to sanctuaries in the near future.
Because of you, lives will be changed. In the next few months the tiny crates and boxcars will be retired. Trainers will put down their whips and chains. Animals will awake to a new kind of day and have a chance to experience some joy, or at least know they won’t be forced to do tricks and perform.