Jill Layton
March 05, 2015 11:53 am

We have some really good elephant news to share with you. The Associated Press reported today that by 2018, every single elephant will be phased out of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, one of the most popular circus companies in the United States.

The decision was not an easy one for Feld Entertainment, Ringling Bros.’ parent company, but it was definitely the right one. The tradition of using elephants in their performances, as well as featured on their posters, has been a thing for over 100 years. Feld Entertainment’s executive vice president, Alana Feld, told The Associated Press, “There’s been somewhat of a mood shift among our consumers. A lot of people aren’t comfortable with us touring with our elephants.”

According to PETA and the countless elephant supporters all over the world, that’s a huge understatement. Ingrid E. Newkirk, president of PETA, released a statement shortly following the announcement. She wrote, “For 35 years PETA has protested Ringling Bros.’ cruelty to elephants. We know extreme abuse to these majestic animals occurs every single day, so if Ringling is really telling the truth about ending this horror, it will be a day to pop the champagne corks, and rejoice. If the decision is serious, then the circus needs to do it NOW.”

Kenneth Feld, the president of Feld Entertainment, admitted that the mood shift of consumers isn’t the only reason they’ve changed course. He added that many cities and counties throughout the country have passed “anti-circus” and “anti-elephant” ordinances, and it’s too expensive to fight the legislation in each city. Plus legislations are always changing which makes tours complicated.

So, while the company is planning to do the right thing for elephants, it sounds like this change is being made because it has to. Also, 2018 is still a long ways away, especially for the elephants who are still performing, but it’s at least a huge step in the right direction.

The Associated Press noted that Feld currently owns 43 Asian elephants (the largest herd of Asian elephants in the U.S.), 29 of those elephants live at the 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida, run by the company. All of the other elephants — except for one who is on breeding leave — will continue to tour with the circus until they are phased out and sent to live at the center.

For all the harm the circus has done to elephants, this center actually sounds like it’s going to be a really good thing. Feld told the Associated Press: “All of the resources used to fight these things [aka changing elephant legislation] can be put toward the elephants . . . we’re creating the greatest resource for the preservation of the Asian elephant.”

At present, Feld Entertainment has three active shows that visit 115 cities each year. That’s A LOT of work for ALL of the animals. Elephants have many advocates, which is fantastic, but what about the other animals who will continue to tour with Ringling? Camels? Dogs? Tigers? Goats? Elephants aren’t the only animals who have been and continue to perform and face harsh circus conditions. When will Ringling Bros. do the right thing for those other animals as well? Will it take another ordinance? Will it take more species-specific advocacy groups to speak up?

Kenneth Feld admitted that the show will not be the same without elephants, but as a company, they are always adapting, learning and changing. Hopefully they will learn to treat all animals with respect, and perhaps eventually, they will no longer use ANY animals in their performances.

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