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Victory! Ringling Phasing Out Elephant Performances, but Should Elephants Spend 3 More Years in Boxcars?

Written by Jennifer O'Connor | March 5, 2015

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced today that in response to growing public concern over “how the animals are treated,” it will end elephant performances by 2018.

“There’s been somewhat of a mood shift among our consumers,” said Alana Feld, the company’s executive vice president. “A lot of people aren’t comfortable with us touring with our elephants.”

For 35 years, PETA has protested Ringling Bros.’ cruelty to elephants. PETA also caught Ringling’s abuse on video and released to the world a former Ringling trainer’s photos of the circus’s violent baby-elephant training. We know that extreme abuse of these majestic animals occurs every single day, so if Ringling is really telling the truth about ending its road show, then it’s a day to pop the champagne corks and rejoice that the first important step has been taken—but there are many more to take.

Watch a video statement from PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk here.

Of course the company’s apparent change of heart comes too late for an 8-month-old baby elephant named Riccardo, who was destroyed after he fractured his hind legs when he fell from a circus pedestal; 4-year-old Benjamin, who drowned; and 3-year-old Kenny, who died after he was forced to perform despite being obviously ill.

Baby Elephant at Ringling Bros.

Baby Elephant at Ringling Bros.

Elephants at Ringling Bros.

Many of the elephants Ringling uses are painfully arthritic and have tuberculosis, so performances need to stop immediately. 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 bullhooks that Ringling handlers use routinely, too long for an animal who would roam up to 30 miles a day in the wild to be kept in shackles.

If the decision is serious, then the circus needs to do it NOW. Then we need to look at what happens to them afterward because Ringling’s Florida compound is no sanctuary and Ringling is still in the profit business, at the animals’ expense.

What You Can Do

Urge Ringling Bros. to stop cruel elephant performances now—not in three years!

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