Why Your Favorite Box Of Animal Crackers No Longer Has Cages

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The small rectangular red cardboard single-serve box that contains Barnum’s Animal Crackers has gotten a makeover and the animals that were previously in cages have now been freed, at least symbolically. For over 100 years, the classic elephant, lion, tiger, and bear cookies have been enjoyed by children and adults, but Nabisco had received pressure to change the animals’ housing for years.

The Daily Beast says that PETA (People For the Ethical Treatment of Animals) was the driving force behind the change, as even circuses have fallen out of favor due to the sad and cruel nature. Mondelez Brands, the parent company behind Nabisco, who makes Barnum’s Animal Crackers saw PETA’s concerns as an opportunity to give the box a facelift.

Jason Levine, Mondelez’s chief marketing officer for North America, said that PETA had a point.

“When PETA reached out about Barnum’s, we saw this as another great opportunity to continue to keep this brand modern and contemporary.”

PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman celebrated the change, saying that the new box celebrates the way our culture now feels about displaying animals for our amusement.

“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.”

But while nobody will likely miss the caged animals pictured on the box, some might miss the old box, complete with the cotton string that fit perfectly around a child’s wrist as a first purse, albeit full of cookies rather than car keys and a wallet. The new box simply has a cardboard handle, which is probably more cost-effective, but far less fun.

PETA wrote their initial letter in 2016 at the same time the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey circus removed elephants from their touring show, says CBS News. In the letter, PETA said that the popular box of animal crackers should reflect the modern sensibility toward circuses and zoos.

“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.”

Mental Floss added some history of Barnum’s Animal Crackers in the small red box which were created in 1902 as a child’s Christmas gift to then use as a tree ornament (hence the string). The original box was priced at five cents.

And though other companies make animal crackers, Barnum’s (one of Nabisco’s oldest brands) boasts the largest variety of animals over the years. Since 1902, children (and adults) have been able to bite the heads off of 37 different creatures. The current Barnum’s 2-ounce box contains 22 cookies in the shape of 19 possible critters.