Posted April 1, 2015
After decades of allegations of abuse by animal rights organizations, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will phase out its elephant acts by 2018.
Under the plan announced March 5, the 13 Asian elephants currently performing in Ringling’s three touring circuses will be retired to the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida, where they will join the rest of the company’s herd of more than 40 elephants.
Kenneth Feld, chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, Ringling’s parent company, said in a statement the decision was not easy, “but it is in the best interest of our company, our elephants, and our customers.”
||The herd at the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida (Courtesy of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey)
In comments reported by The New York Times, Feld said state and municipal regulations regarding the treatment of animals often led to frequent litigation and problems for the circus with scheduling venues in advance. He also acknowledged a change in public attitudes regarding Ringling’s use of elephants in its circuses. “There’s been, on the part of our consumers, a mood shift where they may not want to see elephants transported from city to city,” Feld reportedly told The Times.
Other animal performers including tigers, lions, horses, dogs, and camels will continue to be featured in the circus.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which has for 35 years been protesting Ringling’s use of elephants as circus performers, was not satisfied with the retirement plan. “If the decision is serious, then the circus needs to do it now,” said Delcianna Winders, deputy general counsel at PETA.
Ringling’s Center for Elephant Conservation is home to the largest herd of captive Asian elephants and the most successful breeding program for the endangered species in the Western Hemisphere. The company plans to focus on its Asian elephant conservation programs in North America and through its partnership with the island nation of Sri Lanka.
Additionally, Ringling will continue to collaborate with other elephant conservation organizations. For example, the company has placed elephants at eight zoos, either on loan or through donations, and will continue to support the Smithsonian Institution’s research laboratory working to find a cure for diseases that impact juvenile elephants.