Run free, tasty lions!

By Mike Pomranz
Updated August 21, 2018
Credit: Photo by tinsleyphoto via Getty Images

PETA has a long history of advocating for the ethical treatment of animals. But turns out they also have animal crackers’ backs as well.

Found in 1902, Barnum’s Animal Crackers took its name from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Times have changed and waning interest in that famous circus forced it to close last year after 146 years in business. Now, times are changing for the crackers too: After 116 years of being depicted in cages, the animals on the front of the package are wandering free in a new design that’s on store shelves now.

PETA first sent a complaint to Mondelez International, the parent company of cookie maker Nabisco, back in the spring of 2016, according to the AP. “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,” the letter was quoted as saying.

Reportedly, Mondelez agreed to a redesign at some point before the circus closed last May, but clearly that news made the decision even more fitting. “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.

Whereas the previous design of the still red and yellow box showed different types of animals isolated to four individual cages, the new design depicts five animals—a zebra, elephant, lion, giraffe, and gorilla—walking alongside each other in a natural, safari-like setting. PETA celebrated the change. “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,” PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman said in a statement.

That said, though the positive intensions of the new box are clear, it’s also extremely debatable how “naturally” these five animals would be hanging out together. In some ways, the new box looks more like the cover of some sort of wild animal fighting game for Nintendo Switch. Seriously, that zebra just spent the past 116 years in a circus cage and you think he’s prepared to deal with a lion on the open plains? Good luck, zebra! The wild is definitely better than a cage, but it ain’t no picnic either!

Also, for the record, the nostalgic string on the top of the box has also gone missing—replaced with a cardboard handle—but that’s a different story entirely.