By Marisa Nobs
Many are familiar with The Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus’ iconic Asian Elephant performances. As of this May, however, the great animals will officially retire to the “Center for Elephant Conservation” in central Florida, which provides 200 acres of roaming space. Animal rights supporters, including myself, can rejoice in knowing that these wild creatures will no longer be subjected to petty acts of so-called “entertainment.”
It should be noted that this decision was not out of the kindness of The Ringling Bros’ heart. The elephants were originally meant to make their exit by 2018, but the date was pushed up. On a legal note, local governments have begun passing legislation banning the use of elephants in circus performances, dramatically reducing the areas in which the company could travel to, according to NBC News. Therefore, the decision to say goodbye to the elephants was more a financial and image-saving act than anything else. Regardless, this is a powerful step in the right direction.
There are still many concerns about the retirement location, which is not an accredited facility. High rates of tuberculosis have been reported among the elephants as well, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. At the center, the elephants will be participating in a study to help find a cure for cancer, due to the low cancer rate found in the species. It seems a bit disheartening that after years of service, these animals will continue to be subjected to human demands and not given the most sanitary environment possible.
Hopefully, this will set a precedent for other companies, such as SeaWorld, that have been feeling the heat of organizations like PETA and the public itself. Wild animals should not be forced into silly performances for our benefit. There are plenty of ways to raise awareness of endangered species and promote wildlife preservation without further hindering their well-being. The idea of letting wild animals be wild is luckily becoming normalized. The best way we can continue to slowly reduce and eventually eliminate the practice of using animals in shows is by not spending money on them and pursuing legal action.
The excuse “it’s always been that way” is tiresome and unacceptable. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus used elephants for 143 years, but now must adapt without them. Some of their more modern acts include extreme motorcyclists and far-shooting human canons. The good news is: the circus will be able to survive and maybe even increase sales by not utilizing animals. Other animal-based companies like SeaWorld rely entirely on them and therefore are unlikely to follow the same path. Money is always the number one driving force behind large decisions such as this. That’s why it is up to the consumer to make smart decisions.