Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus elephants will take their final curtain call by 2018.
Elephant acts will be eliminated from the famed, 145-year-old circus, the Associated Press reports, due to mounting public concern over alleged inhumane treatment of the animals.
"This is the most significant change we have made since we founded the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation in 1995," Kenneth Feld, Chairman and CEO of Ringling parent company Feld Entertainment, said in a statement. "This decision was not easy, but it is in the best interest of our company, our elephants and our customers."
Of the 43 elephants Feld Entertainment owns, 29 live at their Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida. All of the elephants who are currently performing will join them at the 200-acre facility within the next three years, the company said.
New York-based animal rights groups have become fixtures at local Ringling shows, including Circus Xtreme, which just wrapped up at the Barclays Center. NYC legislators have also recently gotten in on the action, including Sen. Brad Hoylman, of Manhattan's district 27, who introduced a bill to ban the use of whips, bull hooks, chains or “inserting any instrument into any bodily orifice” of an elephant in January, and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, of district 67, who introduced a bill to make "animal cruelty in the presence of a child" a Class D felony.
Some of the hundred-plus cities the circus travels to have already passed "anti-circus" and "anti-elephant" ordinances, though Ringling will continue to use other animals in its shows, including tigers, lions, horses, dogs and, new this year, stunt camels.
"This announcement shows the animals are winning, however, three years is not soon enough for the elephants suffering right now. We will continue our protests at every showing of Ringling until ALL animals are free from their cruel circus," Long Island Orchestrating for Nature (LION) said in a statement.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has protested Ringling Bros.’ use of elephants for 35 years, John Di Leonardo, Animals In Entertainment campaigner for PETA, told amNewYork. "If Ringling is really telling the truth about ending this horror, it will be a day to pop the champagne corks, and rejoice. However, many of the elephants are painfully arthritic, and many have tuberculosis, so their retirement day needs to come now," he said.
Elephants as entertainment in NYC can be traced all the way back to the 1800s, when P.T. Barnum himself paraded them across the brand new Brooklyn Bridge, led by Jumbo the 7-ton elephant star, to quell New Yorkers' fears about the infrastructure's strength.
-- With Reuters