The City Council's 8-3 vote Tuesday night banning wild animals from being used as entertainment puts Pittsfield on the right side of a trend. Circuses that travel with wild animals are an entertainment from another era that is disappearing from this one.
When Ringling Brothers elephants performed their last show in May it marked the end of an era, although smaller groups will continue to display wild animals. Ringling elephants will join elephants from Barnum & Bailey in a central Florida retirement area where they can enjoy some of the peace and camaraderie.
Proponents of the ban argued that the animals are mistreated and live miserable lives and opponents claimed they are well-treated and provide an educational experience. Most councilors appeared uncomfortable with the concept of traveling animals confined to cages, and indeed why would the average child be thrilled rather than saddened by such a spectacle?
The ban will not end agricultural fairs or clear the city of cows and horses. It will help avoid controversies like the one that annually burdens the circus sponsored by the Dalton Lions Club, whose good works are obscured by protests, counter-protests and angry letters to the editor. As an era ends in circuses, this is no longer a fight worth fighting.