And now, just like that, the company announces it will cease, by 2018, its use of elephants in circuses. Get the confetti and streamers. Grab the kids and the dog. Put on the party hat. Head over to the parade. Jump on what remains of the fallen wall and raise your arms.
Ringling Bros. cited the number of cities and counties that have recently adopted ordinances to restrict the use of elephants in circuses as contributing to its decision. And there's no question that the documentary Blackfish, and the enormous public response to the treatment of orcas at SeaWorld was also a contributing factor. But the outcome was ordained by factors larger than any one thing.
Movements rise and fall based on their success in winning the hearts and minds of regular people. With South Dakota making cruelty a felony last year, making it the 50th state to do so, Americans across the board have now accepted the notion that cruelty is wrong. With ethologists and other scientists demonstrating, in indisputable ways, that animals have complex social and behavioral needs, we are no longer in denial about the lives and minds of elephants and other animals. And with the world shrinking, in terms of communications and so much information available to us, any business built on the backs of exploiting animals cannot long endure.