Change for the better

Published 12:07 pm Sunday, March 8, 2015

They say the only certainties in life are death and taxes, and at no time in history has this cliché rung more true.

The ever-increasing pace of technological advances has opened up new worlds of possibility while at the same rendering many of the “old ways”’ obsolete. And it is not only these so-called improvements that bring change to our everyday lives. Shifting social and moral attitudes also can effect change.

A mere 50 years ago, seeing an interracial couple holding hands was enough to send some in the United States into an irrational fit of rage. These days most would not bat an eyelid at such a coupling. More recently, the country has seen a similar shift in its thinking toward same-sex marriage.

While cases involving basic human rights might be the most obvious examples, shifting attitudes often work their way into the more mundane aspects of life.

Last week, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus announced it will be phasing out the use of elephants in its shows, with the animals to be completely retired from the circus by 2018.

At first glance, the thought of a circus without elephants might seem like sacrilege. After all, far from being just another circus attraction, the massive beasts have been the de facto face of the circus for as long as I can remember.

But years of stories relating the terrible mistreatment of these animals, recognized as one of the most intelligent in the animal kingdom, have taken their toll, and their presence became more of a negative for the circus than a positive.

Having taken an elephant safari through the Chitwan National Park in Nepal, I can say from personal experience that each time I saw the trainer jab a large metal hook into the animal’s back just above the tail, I winced a little and enjoyed the ride less and less. It takes drastic measures to control a highly intelligent beast that weighs on average 2.25 to 5.5 tons, and sometimes those measures are just not worth it for a few minutes of human enjoyment.

It seems Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey have recognized this fact, and in a few years its current elephant herd will be living a life at least a bit closer to what nature intended at its Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida. And when the move is complete, the circus that many of us remember from our youth will be no more, but the circus will go on, its elephant acts replaced by other mesmerizing feats. Eventually, circuses featuring trained elephants will seem as outdated an idea as segregation.

The Daily News announced a change of its own last week in that newspaper delivery will be through the U.S. Postal Service instead of newspaper carriers beginning with its April 3 edition. For some, the idea of newspapers is inextricable from the vision of the youngster on a bicycle, bag slung over the shoulder, tossing newspapers liberally along suburban streets. It’s an idea that was cemented in the head of anyone who has played the videogame “Paperboy.” That vision, however, was outdated even in the ‘80s, and the logistics of coordinating dozens of paper routes while trying to maintain a high level of customer service is a battle whose energy could be much more effectively utilized in other aspects of the operation. In other words, the switch to mail will allow the staff at The Daily News to concentrate more on the newspaper’s core mission of bringing Washington Parish the best local news coverage possible.

Though some may lament the end of an era, the many positives the change will bring — no more missed papers or soggy papers on rainy mornings, to name just a couple — far outweigh the negatives. And in time, receiving the paper with the rest of your regular mail will seem like a no-brainer, a change born of necessity but rooted in concern for our thousands of readers.

Plus, with the possible exception of your tax return, it will be the best thing you find in your mailbox all year.

David Vitrano is general manager and managing editor of The Daily News. He can be reached at