The era of exploiting elephants for human entertainment just took a huge blow, thanks to public backlash.
One of America's largest circus companies announced on Thursday that it will phase out its elephant act. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will retire all of its elephants to the company's Center for Elephant Conservation by 2018.
Alana Feld, vice president of the circus's parent company, Feld Entertainment, cited a change in public sentiment behind the decision, telling the Associated Press:
"There's been somewhat of a mood shift among our consumers. A lot of people aren't comfortable with us touring with our elephants."
That discomfort is well-founded. Ringling Bros.' treatment of elephants has been the subject of growing controversy in recent years, particularly for the cruel way in which the animals are coerced into performing under fear of punishment.
Circus handlers regularly use sharpened metal instruments, called bullhooks, to control elephants' behavior, prodding them to act in unnatural ways as a form of entertainment. Bullhooks are widely seen as inhumane, and a growing number of municipalities in the U.S., including Los Angeles, have banned their use - effectively ending the possibility that elephant shows could take place.