Ringling Bros. Circus to Retire its Elephants by 2018

Article by Jessica SchianodiCola | esPResso Staff Writer

ringling

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

On Thursday, March 5, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced to the Associated Press that by 2018 all 43 of the company’s elephants would be retired from its shows. For decades, the circus company has been scrutinized for the alleged mistreatment of its elephants and has managed to bounce back from countless public relations crises.  However, Kenneth Feld, chief executive officer of Ringling’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, insisted in his statement to the press: “We’re not reacting to our critics; we’re creating the greatest resource for the preservation of the Asian elephant.”

Feld acknowledged the burden of frequent litigation on the company and how a significant shift in the public’s attitudes have affected the circus business. Moreover, he stressed in his statement that, “All of the resources used to fight these things can be put toward the elephants.”

How the decision came to fruition seems trivial to many animal welfare groups, which have fought ruthlessly for the elephants’ liberation from circuses.  Ingrid E. Newkirk, president of People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), is quoted in a story for ABC as saying, “Many of the elephants are painfully arthritic, and many have tuberculosis, so their retirement day needs to come now.”

Executives at Feld are countering these backlashes by explaining to ABC that the three-year timeframe is needed to build the proper facilities for the elephants and work out permits and other logistics. Still, some people wait skeptically to see if the company’s actions meet its words. Samantha Botticelli, a junior at Marist, said, “It’s great to see the efforts of animal rights activists finally pay off. Three years is a while, but it’s better than never.”

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