Last March, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced its plan to phase all elephants out of its performances by 2018. This was great news, obviously, but we were less than thrilled that the elephants would have to wait so long to retire. Apparently, they won’t be waiting until 2018 after all.
According to the Associated Press, Ringling’s elephant act will be ending a year and a half ahead of schedule and all (yes ALL) of their circus elephants will be retiring in May of this year. The elephants will live out their retirement at a 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida that’s owned and operated by Feld Entertainment, Ringling’s parent company. There are currently 29 elephants living at the center and 11 elephants still touring with the circus. Preparations for the additional 11 animals have included new space and enclosures, and it’s gone much faster than anticipated. Which means good news for the elephants still performing. “They’ll be joining the rest of the herd,” said Alana Feld, Executive Vice President and Show Producer for Ringling.
Animal rights activists and concerned animal lovers are breathing a big sigh of relief at this news. Allegations of elephant abuse, use of bull-hooks and other cruel training methods have been a concern of elephant supporters for years. So much so that many cities and states have passed ordinances banning certain training techniques, and in some cases, prohibiting wild or exotic animals in circuses altogether.
Even if these animals are treated humanely, people have begun to really question whether it’s fair to subject elephants, who live in close-knit family groups in the wild, to life in solitary captivity for the sole purpose of being exploited. (It most definitely is not.) The message finally got through, loud and clear. When Ringling announced its original decision to stop using elephants in their performances, they told the AP, “There’s been somewhat of a mood shift among our consumers. A lot of people aren’t comfortable with us touring with our elephants.”
Feld Entertainment owns the largest herd of Asian elephants in North America. We join animal lovers everywhere wishing the Ringling elephants a happy and healthy retirement at their new home.
Ringling’s announcement is great news for all of us concerned with animal welfare. On Monday, PETA tweeted a special message in response to the news that the elephant act would be ending earlier than planned, saying “Let all elephants be free! #RinglingBros taking elephants off the road in May.” The tweet also included a link to their Let Them Be Free t-shirt, the proceeds of which are directed toward helping animals abused in the entertainment industry.
Let them be free indeed.
You can learn more about the conservation center where the elephants will be going, here.
[Image via Shutterstock.]