After decades of mounting pressure from various animal rights and activists groups, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has chosen to phase out their elephant acts. The parent company known as Feld Entertainment stated that the shift comes as a result of growing public concern over the treatment of the animals as well as recent anti-circus and anti-elephant legislation in various countries all over the world.
This should come as no surprise. After the immense public backlash started by the documentary Blackfish, an increasing amount of attention has been directed to not just killer whales, but to all animals in captivity. Since the Blackfish premier, attendance has continued to plummet, as has the company's stock. Countless other companies and organizations have cut ties with the brand, prompting the CEO to step down and David D'Alessandro appointed as interim CEO.
Seeing the financial storm that has hit Seaworld, Feld Entertainment has decided that they want no part of it. According to USA Today, "The circus plans to phase out elephant acts by 2018. Feld's 43 elephants will live at the company's 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida. Twenty-nine animals are already there, and the other 14 will arrive as they are phased out from the circus."
Ringling's Center for Elephant Conservation is located in Polk City, just a mere 30 minutes from Disney's Animal Kingdom. The center has been in use by Ringling since 1995, and while the majority of the public focus on Ringling has been on its world famous traveling circus act, there are a host of animal abuse complaints regarding the treatment of the elephants at the Conservation Center as well.
Undoubtedly in the days and weeks that follow this announcement, there will be a growing interest in the Ringling's Center for Elephant Conservation and more details about the facility and practices will emerge, as well as a new shift in the center's roles within the company.
Since its inception, the center has seemingly been used as a training facility, breeding center, and research and education center. Now with this announcement come questions as to where the focus of the center will shift to now that the elephants will ideally no longer be training or breeding. Already Ringling is announcing plans to expand the center to appropriately house all the elephants.
For years, Ringling Bros and Barnum have come under fire for claims of animal abuse and neglect, and have been the subject of countless inquiries and lawsuits, as well as plenty of exposes and whole web sites dedicated to calling the circus out on various animal cruelty claims.
According to Feld Entertainment executives, the decision was not an easy one for them, as Ringling's elephants have been the centerpiece of their shows for decades. The circus has said that it plans to continue its use of other animals and has recently added camel stunt riders to their show. When asked what the circus intends to replace the elephants with executive vice president Juliette Feld said, "There are endless possibilities".
Animal rights superpower PETA is already taking credit for the decision which Feld entertainment promptly denied.