Barnum's Animals free the crackers and unleash online debate

A snack package redesign urged by PETA opened up a cookie jar full of different opinions.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
CNET freelancer Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper

The animal crackers are free, and not all of the humans are happy about it.

The sweet packaged crackers known as Barnum's Animals are shaped like various creatures. For more than a century, they've been sold in familiar red boxes showing the animals caged in a circus boxcar. But now redesigned packages show the animals roaming free. The new boxes portray a zebra, elephant, lion, giraffe and gorilla strolling next to each other through a grassy field.

Mondelez International, the parent company of cookie giant Nabisco, made the change after the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals suggested it.

"The new box for Barnum's Animals perfectly reflects that our society no longer tolerates caging and chaining exotic animals for circus shows," reads a statement on PETA's website. "PETA is celebrating this redesign just as we've celebrated the closure of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and an end to the use of wild animals in many other circuses."

Some people applauded the new look. "This is the kind of dumb change I can get behind!" wrote one Twitter user. "I love animals!

But others didn't see the point. "PETA you do realize that there are not real animals in the box, right?" one Twitter user wrote. "They are cookies. Yikes this is a big win?

And still, others thought the new package layout was less than realistic.

The redesigned packages are now available on US grocery store shelves.