If promises made this year come to fruition by 2018 “the show” will soon go on without our elephants as Ringling Brothers’ most popular iconic attraction. This has been a long time coming as performing elephants have been in servitude to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for just over 145 years.
Over public pressure by “animal rights groups” (PETA and the strength of elephant activism for decades), Feld Entertainment will phase out their elephant acts over the next several years.
Though lauded as the symbol of their very existence, (Jumbo the elephant was first paraded in America in 1882 & P.T. Barnum actually incorporated animals/the elephant into his “traveling menagerie” in 1870) Alana Feld, whose grandfather purchased the circus in 1967, claims it is public sentiment that has changed and lead to their decision to stop the elephant acts.
“A lot of people aren’t comfortable with us touring with the elephants”.
Her father, Kenneth Feld (who, along with his three daughters operates Feld Enterprises, Inc. aka Feld Entertainment) affirms that message as he staunchly defends his family’s reasoning behind their decision to retire their remaining 13 show elephants. Feld insists they were not influenced by the public protests of PETA for the past 35 years.
“We’re not reacting to our critics”; furthermore “we’re creating, at the Center for Elephant Conservation, the greatest resource for the preservation of the Asian elephant,” boasted Kenneth Feld as he first spoke with The Associated Press (as chronicled by Tamara Lush, AP, in the Star Tribune).
And never mind the years of back and forth litigation (the resolution of a “14-year legal battle” came in the form of a “$25.2 million settlement “against groups, including the Humane Society, who claimed allegations of cruel treatment by “circus employees against elephants”.)
In recent years, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus have also faced stricter ‘anti-circus’ and ‘anti-elephant’ “ordinances” which made their fight for the right to profit off of the backs of our elephants quite expensive. Both Los Angeles, and Oakland, CA, for example, now “prohibits the “use of bull-hooks by elephant handlers and trainers”.
So why have they insisted on the staggered demise of the circus production numbers that exploit our elephants? (Please watch and share the HBO Documentary An Apology to Elephants and see A Reflection on An Apology to Elephants the HBO Documentary Film)
The Feld family has explained that new accommodations will need to be constructed to house the 13 additional retiring circus elephants. And that expansion will not be completed as expeditiously as one might think.
In the meantime our elephants are fearfully having to endure the routines and the treatment of their circus handlers as the show still goes on for now. But this promise from Ringling to end the use of elephants in their circuses is a colossal first step, (albeit far, far overdue) in setting the standard for other circuses (Russia, France, Thailand, and small circuses in the USA still have performing elephants) to follow.
Now more than likely after their herd is all gathered on their 200 acres, the Feld Family will have another venue to exhibit their elephants. (They currently own 43 elephants “the largest herd” of its kind “in North America”.)
Not surprisingly Kenneth Feld has announced that someday, “he hopes to expand to something the public will be able to see.” As if, incredulously, the public will buy in to this barbarity yet again. But as P.T. Barnum once said…………
Photos credit: Creative Commons Flickr, Ringling Brothers Circus elephants
See Also AP YouTube Video: Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts