January 11, 2016
The dwindling audiences have spoken by walking away, and legislators have voted to stop animal acts, so, as of May, no more elephants will be jammed in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus trains and hauled around the country: The circus has moved up its deadline for eliminating elephant performances. Bowing to the public’s “mood shift,” Ringling had announced last year that it would end elephant performances by 2018.
This is good news, but it’s not all sunshine and roses for the “retired” elephants. Spending days on end chained in stifling, reeking boxcars is a miserable life for these keenly intelligent, active animals, but despite Ringling’s spin on what comes next, the circus’s Florida breeding compound – where the elephants will go – has fundamental flaws. At Ringling’s grandiosely named Center for Elephant Conservation (CEC), elephants will no doubt still be chained on a daily basis, be forced to breed, be deprived of opportunities to interact and socialize normally, and continue to live in fear of being hit with bullhooks. Ringling has also been known to experiment on elephants at the facility and to sell them.
In another chilling revelation, the CEC is teeming with tuberculosis (TB). According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the CEC is the “facility with the highest incidence of TB in their elephants,” and it has been the subject of a series of government-mandated quarantines as a result.
Pulling elephants from the road is a step in the right direction, but Ringling should get out of the whole animal business altogether. The elephants should be taken to legitimate sanctuaries, and all the animal acts should come to an end.