SeaWorld Not Alone: Ringling Bros. Shows on the Decline

As Public Learns of Captive Animals' Suffering, Circus Feels the Pinch: Figures Show Performances Cut by Up to 40 Percent

For Immediate Release:
August 18, 2014

David Perle 202-483-7382

Norfolk, Va. – Thanks to revelations in the damning SeaWorld documentary Blackfish, SeaWorld’s stock has plummeted—but that company isn’t the only one affected by a growing awareness that animals shouldn’t be taken from their families and forced to perform tricks in order to boost a business’s profits. Data gathered by PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to use for entertainment”—reveal that this year, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has just 544 shows on its schedule, compared to 617 shows in 2013. It held just five days of performances in Miami in 2014 compared to 11 days in both 2013 and 2012, and it held 12 days of performances in Mexico City in 2014 vs. 19 in 2013. (Mexico City has since banned the use of animals in circuses altogether.) The decline comes after a wave of protests across the U.S. against the circus’s cruel treatment of elephants, tigers, and other animals.

“After people learn that elephants are beaten into performing circus tricks, they stop going to the circus,” says PETA Foundation General Counsel Delcianna Winders. “Just as PETA is calling on SeaWorld to release the orcas into coastal sanctuaries, we’re calling on Ringling to free elephants from their chains and retire them to proper sanctuaries.”

Potential audiences across the country have been appalled to find out that baby elephants used by Ringling are stretched out, slammed to the ground, gouged with steel-tipped bullhooks—weapons that resemble fireplace pokers with a sharp steel hook on one end—and shocked with electric prods, as revealed in compelling photos taken inside Ringling’s training compound. A PETA undercover investigation of Ringling resulted in video footage that shows that Ringling workers repeatedly beat elephants with bullhooks backstage to remind them “who’s boss.” In 2011, Ringling paid $270,000, the highest fine in circus history, for violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

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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