A box of Nabisco Barnum's Animals crackers on the shelf of a local grocery store in Des Moines, Iowa is displayed on Monday Mondelez International says it redesigned the packaging of its Barnum's Animals crackers after relenting to pressure from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Some caged exotic animals get a new taste (ahem) of freedom


A lot of people who grew up in North America will tell you one of simpler, sweet pleasures of their youth–along with ice cream sodas, a game of tag or tossing a ball around–was opening a box of animal crackers and munching on its contents.

There were drawbacks, of course.

A mother’s wrath.

The old boxes, above, showed the animals in cages, implying they’re travelling in boxcars for the circus. The new boxes feature a zebra, elephant, lion, giraffe and gorilla wandering side-by-side in a grassland. (Kiichiro Sato/Associated Press)

Something about the crumbs.

Somehow, no matter how hard one might try, those crumbs ALWAYS managed to fall beneath the blankets on top of the freshly-minted sheets your mother had just washed.

Ah, but those crackers themselves. Exotic, ubiquitous. Everybody loved ’em. Heck, even the Marx Brothers named a film for them.

They arrived in a colourful red, yellow and blue box decorated with drawings of elephants, polar bears, lions and other imaginary friends.

At the top were the words BARNUM’S ANIMALS in honour of the then-thriving Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

Below was the word CRACKERS, which, of course, we already knew.

Canada preceded the U.S. in changing the packaging (above) of Barnum’s Animals crackers.

Down near the bottom was something most of us didn’t know, Barnum’s Animals, the box told us, are a “Good Source of CALCIUM.”

But there was another thing we didn’t know back then: circus animals don’t lead such a hot life and that’s where the animals on box appeared headed–in caged circus boxcar wagons.

It’s doubtful anyone took notice, but times have changed and now a lot of people do.

Circuses–to understate the case–are on the way out.

And so, fittingly, are those caged circus wagons on a box of animal crackers.

Following Canada’s lead of several years ago, BARNUM’S ANIMALS, were liberated in the United States this week.

Camille Labchuk, Executive Director of Animal Justice, is happy with the changes.

Mondelez International, the parent company of Nabisco, which first named animal crackers BARNUM’S ANIMALS in 1902, changed the packaging.

Instead of caged animals, we now have those exotic African animals making their way in harmony across a grassy expanse, looking very very together and free.

The change follows pressure from the animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

PETA, which been protesting the use of animals in circuses for more than 30 years, approached Mondelez in 2016 to redesign the package.

Mondelez agreed.

This change came Monday,

“When PETA reached out about Barnum’s, we saw this as another great opportunity to continue to keep this brand modern and contemporary,” Jason Levine, Mondelez’s chief marketing officer for North America, said in a statement.

Cagey marketing? Doing the right thing? Political correctness run amok? Cornball? Trivial? Important? All of the above? None of the above?

For a bit of perspective, I called by friend Camille Labchuk, executive director of Animal Justice Canada and spoke to her at her Ottawa office on Wednesday.

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