The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has announced that they will phase out their elephant acts by 2018. The decision, which was debated for a long time, was prompted by people’s growing concern over how the elephants are treated. The circus has show cased elephants for over a century.
Animal rights groups like PETA quickly claimed credit for the decision. In a statement, PETA’s president, Ingrid E. Newkirk, wrote that PETA had been protesting Ringling Bros.’ cruelty to elephants for 35 years.
According to Feld’s president, Kenneth Feld, there were other reasons behind the decision. Some cities passed regulations that he described as “anti-circus” and “anti-elephant.” The circus visits 115 cities each year, and it’s expensive to fight such legislation. It is also hard to plan routes around constantly changing regulations. Caring for the elephants themselves is expensive; it costs $65,000 per year to take care of one elephant — and these animals have a life expectancy comparable to that of a human according to the Amen Clinics. Indeed, one of the elephants living at the Center is 69 years old.
Feld Entertainment, the parent company of the circus, owns 43 elephants. 29 of them live at the 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation, which the company owns. One elephant has been loaned to the Fort Worth Zoo for a breeding program, and the remaining thirteen will continuing touring with the circus. They will retire to the center by 2018.
While Ringling Bros. has always been known for its elephant acts, it has other animal acts, including a camel stunt riding act from Mongolia. It also has clowns, daredevils and motorsports.