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U.S. Circuses Announce Retirement of Elephants from Shows

Photo courtesy of Amy n Rob at

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey recently announced that they plan to phase out the use of elephants in their shows by the year 2018. The announcement comes in the wake of years of pressure from animal rights groups through the filing of lawsuits concerning the circus’ treatment of animals.

End of an Era

“It is bittersweet because the elephants have been at the circus for 145 years so this is a real shift in what will be but it’s the best thing for our company, for our associates and for our consumers and most of all for the elephants,” said Kenneth Feld, President of Feld Entertainment.

Over the course of the next three years, the circuses will send their 13 traveling Asian elephants to the established Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida. According the a press release issued by Feld Entertainment, “The circus will continue to feature other extraordinary animal performers, including tigers, lions, horses, dogs, and camels.”

The Feld Entertainment Company believes they’ve made an “unprecedented” commitment to focus their efforts on elephant conservation programs. “No other institution has done or is doing more to save this species from extinction,” said Feld, “and that is something of which I and my family are extremely proud.”

Continued Public Pressure

In spite of these efforts, the company continues to feel pressure from animal rights organizations that believe they should suspend the use of live animals in their shows altogether. According to Born Free USA, “Elephants, tigers, and other circus animals are wild animals…Wild animals used in circuses originate from different parts of the globe, and have unique and specific needs for diet, health, vet care, social interaction, stimulation, exercise and movement, living environment, climate, etc. Yet circus animals are all trained similarly, and all live and travel together under the same conditions. It is impossible for the unique needs of every animal to be met. Worse yet, outright neglect and mistreatment of animals in the circus is rampant throughout the industry.”

Despite years of public outcry regarding the use of wild animals in circus acts, the recent decision by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey came as a surprise to many animal welfare organizations. “It’s wonderful news for the animals that have endured so much cruelty for so many years,” says Diane Schabath, a member of the Indiana Animal Rights Alliance, but she believes it’s just the first step in a continuing battle against the animal rights abuses that occur behind the scenes at circuses around the country.

Expediting the Process

While the plan to phase out elephants by 2018 is a step in a positive direction, many animal rights groups would like to see it happen sooner. PETA president Ingrid E. Newkirk recently released a statement saying, “Three years is too long for a mother elephant separated from her calf, too long for a baby elephant beaten with the sharp fireplace-poker-like weapons called bull hooks that Ringling handlers use routinely, too long for an animal who roams up to 30 miles a day in the wild to be kept in shackles.”

If you believe that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey have already profited enough from the use of elephants in their shows and you’d like to see them expedite the process of releasing their performance elephants in a protected sanctuary, make your voice heard and Urge Ringling Bros. to Stop Cruel Elephant Acts TODAY!

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