Ringling Bros. Circus Will Stop Using Elephants By 2018 – BuzzFeed News
The company announced it would phase out use of elephants due to growing public concern about the treatment of the animals.
The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, one of biggest circus companies in the United States, announced that it would stop using elephants in its shows by 2018, BBC reported.
Ringling Bros. circus handler Joey Frisco speaks to an Asian elephant in Boston in 2013. Elise Amendola / AP
The company said that growing public concern of the treatment of its famous Asian elephants prompted the decision.
The circus in Washington D.C. Alex Brandon / AP
Animal rights activists have long protested the circus’s alleged mistreatment of elephants and have been frustrated with the lack of action taken by the US. Department of Agriculture (USDA) against the company.
A 2011 Mother Jones story detailed the horrific abuses allegedly suffered by around 50 Asian elephants used by the company.
From Mother Jones:
But a yearlong Mother Jones investigation shows that Ringling elephants spend most of their long lives either in chains or on trains, under constant threat of the bullhook, or ankus—the menacing tool used to control elephants.
They are lame from balancing their 8,000-pound frames on tiny tubs and from being confined in cramped spaces, sometimes for days at a time. They are afflicted with tuberculosis and herpes, potentially deadly diseases rare in the wild and linked to captivity.
Barack, a calf born on the eve of the president’s inauguration, had to leave the tour in February for emergency treatment of herpes—the second time in a year.
Since Kenny’s death, 3 more of the 23 baby elephants born in Ringling’s vaunted breeding program have died, all under disturbing circumstances that weren’t fully revealed to the public.
This video, shot undercover by PETA in 2009, showed the company’s workers beating, whipping, and hooking elephants as well as striking tigers.
A former Ringling Bros employee told PETA that she had witnessed several elephant beatings and urged people to “never take your children to a Ringling Bros. Circus.”
In Greenville, S.C. Rainier Ehrhardt / AP
Archele Hundley, who worked on Ringling’s animal crew for two months, said she witnesses daily animal abuse at the company.
She said that an elephant in Oklahoma was so severely beaten by bullhooks that she bled profusely.
“I saw handlers deliver a beating … for 30 minutes. She was covered with bloody wounds. I’ll never forget her agonizing screams,” Hundley told PETA.
An elephant with arthritis was forced to stay on the road, she said.
In 1998, Kenny, a three-year-old Asian elephant, bled to death after he was forced to perform despite being sick.
In Greenville, S.C. Rainier Ehrhardt / AP
After a public outcry, the USDA charged Feld Entertainment, Ringling’s corporate parent, with two violations for forcing Kenny to perform without adequate veterinary care, according to the Mother Jones report.
However, within a few months the USDA settled with Feld Entertainment after the company said it would donate $20,000 to elephant causes and in return not be blamed for Kenny’s death.
Most recently, animal rights activists alleged that the company violated the Animal Welfare Act by confining three elephants in their boxcars for four days at a stretch without any access to the outdoors, The Dodo reported.
A Ringling Bros. circus elephant steps off a train in Moonachie, N.J. Mike Derer / ASSOCIATED PRESS
Last December, Stephen Payne, VP of Corporate Communcations at Feld Entertainment, responded to allegations of animal abuse by PETA in a strongly-worded letter that attacked the group’s claims as “radical animal rights agenda.”
Payne said Ringling Bros. was “very proud of our animal care and conservation efforts” and that every portion of every ticket sold at the performance went to conservation programs to save the endangered Asian elephant and other species.
“We have more than 145 years of experience working with animals and are a strong proponent of animal welfare, not the radical animal rights agenda supported by PETA and like-minded groups,” Payne said.
The company said it its 43 elephants will live at an animal conservation center in Florida after they stop performing, the BBC reported.
A Ringling Bros. elephant in New York. Julie Jacobson / ASSOCIATED PRESS