Thursday 21 January 2016

A Long- Awaited Victory For Circus Elephants

Last March, when Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that it would be retiring its elephants from their long-suffering and demeaning performances, it was a potential game-changer in the movement to end captive exploitation of wild animals for human entertainment. Marking the end of such an enduring institution was momentous for the 11 elephants who currently tour with the circus (which has seen 12 elephants die in the last 10 years alone), and also for shifting public opinion about the use of animals for entertainment. 

However, Ringling's announcement postponed the date of retirement until 2018... Month after month; year after year; unnaturally clinging to a deprived life.

Now, the surprise January gift: Ringling has announced that it will end its elephant show in March 2016, a full year and a half ahead of schedule.

Ringling's parent company, Feld Entertainment, attributes this move to unexpectedly quick completion of the elephants' new enclosures. However, a look at the bigger picture suggests that it was probably equally motivated by public attitudes that are very quickly turning against the mistreatment of these intelligent animals. As we have seen with SeaWorld following the release of the 2013 film Blackfish, opposition to animal suffering can snowball into an outcry that could sink a company. Such effective public mobilization was surely a key factor in finally getting through to Ringling and motivating the company to phase out its "iconic" elephant show.

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