Early retirement seems like a farfetched dream for many, but for elephants currently performing in the circus it will become a welcome reality. In March of last year, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that it would stop using elephants in its shows by 2018. Although animal lovers were happy to know the end was in sight, waiting another three years to do the right thing seemed ludicrous, so 100,000 Care2 members asked Ringling Bros. to expedite the process with this petition.
Amazingly, the petitioners’ pleas were heard and the remaining performing elephants will be phased out of circus acts by this May, a full 18 months ahead of schedule, reports the Associated Press.
According to Ringling’s executive vice president, Alana Feld, the reason for speeding up the elephants’ exit is that housing became available sooner than anticipated. The company has a 200-acre conservation center in Florida, which already houses about 30 elephants. Feld explains that staff was able to expand the habitats quicker than expected to make room for the eleven elephants currently traveling with the circus.
The other likely catalyst for the elephants’ early (yet long overdue) departure is the rash of countries and cities that have passed laws and ordinances forbidding elephant performances or some of the handling techniques that Ringling Bros. currently employs. As a result, the circus has had a difficult time putting together a profitable tour schedule with so many places off-limits to shows featuring elephants. From a monetary and logistical standpoint, the circus has been more or less compelled to stop using elephants.
“Ringing had been one of the biggest defenders of this kind of archaic animal exploitation,” the CEO of the Humane Society, Wayne Pacelle, told the AP. “The imminent end of its traveling elephant acts signaled that even one of the most tough-minded and hardened animal-use companies now recognized that the world is changing and it had to adapt.”
In recent years, tragic videos of elephant abuse and the disgusting techniques used to force elephants to perform tricks have gone viral on the internet. As knowledge of this inhumane treatment became more commonplace, fewer people were interested in purchasing tickets for a show that would treat its “stars” in such a manner.
Although Ringling’s Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida will operate on a budget of over $2.5 million per year, the president of PETA has called for “vigilance” to ensure that the elephants are being treated properly. Though the area no doubt affords the elephants better lifestyles than performing in the circus, not everyone is excited that conditions that don’t live up to typical animal sanctuaries. Because the elephants there are chained at night, bred and live their entire lives in captivity, nearly 90,000 Care2 petitioners have called on Ringling Bros. to find a better form of retirement for the elephants.
While activists should certainly celebrate the end of elephant performances, the fight to change circus culture is not over. In the United States alone, 300 wild and exotic animals have been captured by circus companies and are forced to perform for our supposed amusement. Join over 110,000 other Care2 members in signing this petition calling on Congress to remove wild animals from traveling circuses. Animals of all kinds – not just elephants – deserve better lives than that.
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