Three Years Ago Today, Ringling Announced It Would End Elephant Acts

Published by Katherine Sullivan.

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

Since then, PETA hasn’t backed down, and the victories are piling up.

In 2016, after urging venues to refuse to host Cole Bros. Circus—whose exhibitors’ habitual violations of federal animal-welfare laws could fill a police blotterthe notorious circus went dark. It hasn’t put on a performance since.

In January 2017—after 36 years of PETA protests and documenting animals who were left to die, beaten, and much more—Ringling announced that it would close. The saddest show on Earth held its final performance a few months later.

Right on the heels of Ringling’s final show, the New York City Council prohibited all traveling circuses from bringing wild animals into the Big Apple. Residents had called and e-mailed their council members, urging them to pass the measure.

But New Yorkers weren’t the only ones to refuse such cruelty—both Latvia and Romania banned wild-animal acts, too. Just days after PETA Germany sent an urgent letter to the Latvian parliament (Saeima) and issued a news release, the parliament voted for a strict ban on the use of wild animals in circuses. Meanwhile, in Romania, circus owners could face criminal charges and a year in prison if they violate the country’s new ruling. Twenty-one EU countries now prohibit some or all wild-animal acts.

A few months later, notorious animal exhibitor and longtime PETA target Hawthorn Corporation folded after its license was canceled. The victory was achieved after years of PETA protests, $272,500 in penalties from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the deaths of dozens of tigers on its watch.

Most recently, the new owner of Kelly Miller Circus, James Kendrick Judkins, confirmed to PETA that there will be no exotic-animal acts in the circus going forward. Previous owner John Ringling North II (the last of the Ringlings still working with circuses) was forced to sell after circus sponsors and city officials were inundated with e-mails—thanks in large part to PETA’s efforts and those of our members and supporters—protesting his last tour, which included elephants and zebras.

Until all animals are freed from circuses—where they’re forced to perform tricks under the threat of being beaten, whipped, and prodded—PETA will continue to push for their liberation.

You Can Help These Animals, Too

These victories—including Ringling’s demise—wouldn’t have been possible without our members and supporters, who wrote letters or made phone calls to legislators, attended protests, and spread the word on social media. But other wild animals are still being held captive and tormented for cruel circus acts, and they need our help, too. Click the button below to speak up for them by urging venues to host only animal-free events:

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind