Ringling Bros. To Ban Clowns Next [analysis]

ringling brothers clown
Written by Joy Ma

in the wake of freeing elephants from forced circus labor, Ringling Bros execs now say they are thinking about removing clowns, too. This after decades of claims by clown rights activists that the circus cruelly tortures its merry-makers using long, hooked poles called bullhooks.

aNewDomainangry clown — On the heels of removing elephants from their circus, Ringling Brothers said it is considering banning clowns as well.

Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, said in a statement on Monday that it was considering phasing out its sad and goofy clowns and moving the men and women from their traveling circuses to a conservation center in Florida.

The move would bring to 500 the number of clowns at the center, the company said. The cost of caring for the clowns is about $65,000 a year, and Feld Entertainment said it wants to use that money to focus on make-up removal, retraining and eventual relocation.

The announcement comes after decades of claims by clown rights activists that the circus treated the merry-makers cruelly, including complaints about its use of long, hooked poles called bullhooks, and other methods of control.

“Outside we’re supposed to make the children laugh,” said Slaps, a white-faced, red-haired clown, extinguishing a cigarette on the sole of his oversize shoe. “But those hooks hurt. I paint a smile on my face every day. It’s the only way I can smile anymore.”

Clown welfare groups gave mixed responses to the announcement on Monday.

Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Clowns, said in a statement that the public had lost its taste for “abusive” shows and called on the company to end all of its clown acts, including ones with buckets filled with confetti.

She added that there was a danger of disease transmission from the clowns, highlighting a report published last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that investigated a possible transmission of tuberculosis from clowns in an Oregon sideshow to humans.

Feld Entertainment gave no word yet on the possible date of the mandatory clown retirement.

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