Ringling Bros. will stop using elephants in its circus

Amid growing protests of animal cruelty, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey decided to stop using elephants in its act and will phase the animals out entirely by 2018. Given the fact that Feld Entertainment, Ringling Bros.’s parent company, has been embroiled in a number of lawsuits over the treatment of animals and is constantly battling shifting regulations in various cities regarding the use of animals as performers, it just makes good business sense to retire the elephants from the show rather than try to fight growing legislation banning the use of the elephants.

”There’s been somewhat of a mood shift among our consumers,” the company’s executive vice president, Alana Feld, told AP. “A lot of people aren’t comfortable with us touring with our elephants.”

The company owns 43 elephants in total and the 13 that are currently touring are scheduled to retire to the company-owned Center for Elephant Conservation in Central Florida which provides a 200-acre home for the animals.

As Gothamist pointed out, the 2018 deadline doesn’t make animal rights advocates PETA happy and they’d rather see an end to the use of elephants immediately. In a blog post on PETA’s website, the advocacy group wrote that “…many of the elephants are painfully arthritic, and many have tuberculosis, so their retirement day needs to come now.”

“Three years is too long for a mother elephant separated from her calf,” the post continued, “Too long for a baby elephant beaten with the sharp fireplace-poker like weapon called bullhook that Ringling handers use routinely, too long for an animal who roams up to 30 miles a day in the wild to be kept in shackles”

Gothamist’s Jake Dobkin snapped a picture of one such bullhook when the circus came to Brooklyn in 2013.

Of course, the retiring of the elephants doesn’t mean that the circus will stop using animal performers as a whole. The show still features horses, tigers and an act that company president Kenneth Feld described to the AP as “a Mongolian troupe of camel stunt riders.”

[NY Times|Gothamist|Top image: Suzanne DeChillo]