Elephants have always played an integral role at the circus, but after more than a century, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is starting to phase out the massive mammals from its acts. By 2018, there will be no elephants in any of the company's shows.
The decision was made after years of public concern over how elephants and other animals are treated in circus acts.
"There's been somewhat of a mood shift among our consumers," said Alana Feld, the executive vice president of the circus' parent company Feld Entertainment, in a statement. "A lot of people aren't comfortable with us touring with our elephants."
The 13 elephants that are now part of the Ringling Bros. shows will be sent to the circus' Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida by 2018, joining about 30 others.
"This is the most significant change we have made since we founded the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation in 1995," said company president Kenneth Feld. "When we did so, we knew we would play a critical role in saving the endangered Asian elephant for future generations, given how few Asian elephants are left in the wild ... This decision was not easy, but it is in the best interest of our company, our elephants and our customers."
The decision was also prompted by the fact that some cities and counties have passed "anti-circus" and "anti-elephant" ordinances. The company's three shows visit 115 cities throughout the year, and Mr. Feld said it was expensive to fight legislation in each jurisdiction. It is also difficult, he said, to plan tours amid constantly changing regulations.
However, other animals, however, will still appear under the Big Top. The 145-year-old circus will continue to showcase, horses, dogs, tigers, camels, and other animals in its act.
We're guessing that, until the treatment of those animals stirs up enough costly lawsuits, they will remain in the circus. But hopefully with the elimination of the elephant, the symbol of the "Greatest Show on Earth," it'll be easier for the other animals to eventually get out, too.
(h/t The New York Times)