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The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s Circus Renders Animal Performance Irrelephant

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.

7 Comments on The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s Circus Renders Animal Performance Irrelephant

  1. Thank you, Marisa. You nailed it. The welfare of Ringling’s elephants and of all the other animals it exploits has never been its concern. It’s all about the bottom line. Life for the elephants won’t be any easier when they’re sent to the circus’ Florida compound. They still will spend most of the day in chains, have their babies taken away, suffer the pain of bullhooks and be denied the chance to socialize that is so important to these intelligent, empathetic, gentle giants. Please, don’t buy a ticket to Ringling or any other circus that ueses elephants.


  2. Thanks for this thoughtful piece. I agree that animals are not ours to use for our own “entertainment.”


  3. The tide of public opinion has forever turned. People no longer find it “amusing” to see elephants, orcas, and other animals kept in captivity and forced to perform demeaning tricks. I hope these long-suffering elephants will get a real retirement at a reputable sanctuary, instead of being kept in chains and used as breeding machines to produce more elephants doomed to lives of captivity.


  4. Animals don’t belong in captivity, period. Ringling needs to admits it’s wrong to exploit and abuse animals and retire them all to a real sanctuary.


  5. I completely agree with the author. That’s why I will never buy a ticket to any act with animals, period.


  6. JennofurOConnor // January 28, 2016 at 4:25 am // Reply

    My family condemns cruelty to animals, which is why we have not, and will not, ever go to a circus exploiting animals. It’s a no-brainer, really.


  7. Pat Cuviello // January 28, 2016 at 2:14 pm // Reply

    Thank you for the thoughtful article. One thing, although Ringling’s euphemistically named “Center For Elephant Conservation” is 200 acres it is not available for the elephants to “roam.” The facility is sectioned off with pens, barns and paddocks. Ringling will still be using bullhooks on the elephants and chaining them up most of the day. If Ringling is serious about “retiring” these elephants they need to send them to The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, a real sanctuary. To understand the differences between Ringling and The Elephant Sanctuary watch the video at this link and then sign the petition if you are inclined.


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