Hate The Circus? This Could Change Your Mind

Photo: Everett Collection/REX USA.
Elephants and the circus are inextricably linked in many people's minds, and not just because we've all seen — and sobbed over — Dumbo. (Sidenote: Have you watched Dumbo recently? It's the saddest, trippest, not-really-appropriate-for-kids movie ever.) The majestic creatures have been the centerpiece of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Baily Circus for over a century, but that iconic symbol is about to change. Due to mounting public concern over how the animals are treated, Ringling Bros. will be phasing all the elephants out of its performances by 2018.

The ability to travel and perform with elephants has become increasingly difficult in the past few years. Many districts passed ordinances forbidding the use of bullhooks to corral animals, and some cities have prohibited performances with wild and exotic animals entirely. Feld Entertainment (Ringling Bros.' parent company) has also been faced with repeated charges of animal cruelty. In 2011, it was forced to settle with the U.S. Department of Agriculture following alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act. 

In the wake of Feld Entertainment executive vice president Alana Feld's announcement that it would be phasing elephants out of all shows by 2018, PETA released a statement about how it has been protesting "Ringling Bros' cruelty to elephants" for 35 years." It applauded Ringling's decision with skepticism. "[If] Ringling is really telling the truth about ending this horror, it will be a day to pop the champagne corks, and rejoice."

Feld maintained that the decision was made because of consumers' concerns about touring with elephants. The remaining animals will be retired to the company's Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will refocus its shows on feats of humans' physical capabilities, motorsports, and daredevils. The Greatest Show on Earth insists it will be just as great without its signature elephants.  (AP)
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