After more than a century behind bars, the beasts on boxes of animal crackers are roaming free.
Mondelez International, the parent company of Nabisco, has redesigned the packaging of its Barnum’s Animals crackers after relenting to pressure from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
PETA, which has been protesting the use of animals in circuses for more than 30 years, wrote a letter to Mondelez in the spring of 2016 calling for a redesign, reports Fortune.
“Given the egregious cruelty inherent in circuses that use animals and the public’s swelling opposition to the exploitation of animals used for entertainment, we urge Nabisco to update its packaging in order to show animals who are free to roam in their natural habitats,” PETA said in its letter.
Mondelez agreed and started working on a redesign. In the meantime, the crackers’ namesake circus – Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey – folded for good. The 146-year-old circus, which had removed elephants from its shows in 2016 because of pressure from PETA and others, closed down in May 2017 due to slow ticket sales.
The redesign of the boxes, now on U.S. store shelves, retains the familiar red and yellow coloring and prominent “Barnum’s Animals” lettering. But instead of showing the animals in cages – implying that they’re traveling in boxcars for the circus – the new boxes feature a zebra, elephant, lion, giraffe and gorilla wandering side-by-side in a grassland. The outline of acacia trees can be seen in the distance.
“When PETA reached out about Barnum’s, we saw this as another great opportunity to continue to keep this brand modern and contemporary,” said Jason Levine, Mondelez’s chief marketing officer for North America, in a statement.
Mondelez is based in Illinois, which passed a statewide ban on circuses with elephants that went into effect in January. More than 80 U.S. cities have fully or partially banned circuses with wild animals, according to Animal Defenders International.
PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman says she’s celebrating the box redesign for the cultural change it represents.
“The new box for Barnum’s Animals crackers perfectly reflects that our society no longer tolerates the caging and chaining of wild animals for circus shows,” she said.
Nabisco has been making Barnum’s Animals crackers since 1902. It has redesigned its boxes before, but only for limited-time special editions. In 1995, it offered an endangered species collection that raised money for the World Wildlife Fund. In 1997, it offered a zoo collection that raised money for the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. And in 2010, it worked with designer Lilly Pulitzer on a pastel-colored box that raised money for tiger conservation.
The company won’t say how many boxes it sells each year. Canadian boxes already had a different design and aren’t affected.
In other animal-related news, education has gone down the tubes.
A Florida teacher accused of drowning two raccoons and an opossum in front of his students will not face criminal charges, according to the state attorney’s office.
Forest High School agricultural science teacher Dewie Brewton allegedly killed the three trapped animals by lowering their cages into a trash can that had been filled with water on May 15. Fifth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Brad King claims the teacher did not “torment” the animals and was not unnecessarily cruel when he drowned them.
Brewton, who was removed from the classroom after the incident, told investigators that eight of his class’s chickens had been killed by raccoons and he set out to trap them. Brewton “explained that the most humane way to dispose of these nuisance animals was to drown them. He was clear that he never intended to be cruel,” King wrote in a memo, obtained by WKMG.
A graphic video of the incident was sent to reporters at WKMG, which allegedly shows several students helping Brewton to hold the cages underwater as the raccoons tried to escape. “I don’t think that’s the way to treat any animal. Whether it is a raccoon or (another animal) you just don’t torture an animal and kill it like that,” a student’s mother added.
Despite being cleared of wrongdoing in the controversial case, Brewton retired from teaching days after the drownings. A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission official questioned in the criminal case said he didn’t think the teacher acted with malice, however he recommended to never again use drowning as a form of dealing with “nuisance” animals.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk