Ringling to Phase Out Circus Elephants!

Posted by Carney Anne Small, ALDF Legislative Counsel on March 5, 2015


“We’re not going to come… without our elephants,” said Stephen Payne, Ringling Bros.’ vice president of corporate communications, when the City of Los Angeles passed a ban on firepoker-like bullhooks that circuses use to dominate and control elephants. As public awareness has grown about the circus’ barbaric bullhook abuse, forcible separation of mothers and infant elephants, confinement of elephants in cramped boxcars for up to 100 hours at a time, nearly interminable chaining at performance venues, and use of elephants who are sick or suffering from painful conditions like arthritis, dozens of jurisdictions across the United States have banned the use of bullhooks or the use of exotic animals in traveling acts all together. Despite the clear shift in public opinion about the use of elephants and other animals in entertainment acts, Ringling has remained unyielding in its position that it will not end its use of elephants. Until today.

We have all hoped to see the elephants have their own Blackfish moment. And that moment appears to have arrived. On March 5, 2015, we all woke up to historic news that may not have been believable had it not been reported on virtually every major news network across the United States: Ringling Bros. announced that it is finally eliminating the use of elephants from its circus by 2018. In this earthshattering about-face maneuver, Ken Feld, the CEO of Ringling’s parent company, acknowledged the role that shifting public opinion and legislative efforts to ban bullhooks has played, and the circus’ need to adapt. While some groups have been critical of the efficacy of bullhook bans, this announcement by Ringling Bros. is a clear indication that the bans passed in Oakland, Los Angeles, Fulton County, and other localities across the U.S. have indeed influenced the $2 billion entertainment corporation’s decision to adapt and drop the elephant act.

This is a monumental step in the right direction, but our work on behalf of exotic animals in entertainment is not over yet. While we at Animal Legal Defense Fund are celebrating this historic victory for elephants, our efforts to pass legislation that will protect elephants, tigers, and other animals who are exploited in circuses and traveling acts will not end until all animal acts are a relic of the past.

11 thoughts on “Ringling to Phase Out Circus Elephants!

  1. Laissez les tranquille dans leur milieux!!!

  2. Dennis Sneed says:

    One step in the right direction, now lets get all animals banned from exploitation!

    1. Rena says:

      I am agree that this must be the next step to ban all exotic animals from circuses, also other animals that are suffering so badly. I think that circuses and zoos should not even exist.

  3. judy thorpe says:

    In this changing time RB&B has made the right decision to phase out their circus elephants and in doing so will gain far more respect and praise for doing this right positive ethical humane move. They said elephants have entertained in their circus for 100 years. That is way too long. Nothing stays the same. In their commitment in ending the elephants they need to do it now not 3 years from now. Retire the elephants now. No need to drag the elephant show on out. It’s over so let’s move the elephants to pasture and freedom of a peaceful sanctuary and get on with the next non-animal entertainment act. Other circuses have survived the change to non-animal entertainment with great success and RB&B can do the same.

    1. D. Weiler says:

      I agree!!!!! re:RB&B decision

  4. Julie Butera says:

    First thought that comes to my mind is ,”Yaay ! Thank God that’s great! Long overdue and not soon enough !!!”
    Then I want to know , what are the plans for these elephants ? Where will they go ? That’s very important and I have yet to see this addressed .

    1. Theresa Lehmann says:

      The elephants will retire to a 200+ acre preserve in central FL. And yes, Mr. Feld did acknowledge that it is too expensive to fight the local ordinance that cities are implementing (not using bull-hooks and chains). He is a businessman and face it, there is more of an awareness about the suffering of circus animals than in the past. There is consequently less revenue, as families aren’t comfortable viewing the shows, knowing the animals are faced with cruelty in their everyday lives.

  5. Dolores Whitley says:

    Ringling owner Mr. Feld simply stated after 2018 the elephants won’t TRAVEL with the shows. He did not say they won’t perform any longer. He did not say the elephants will go into a sanctuary. His family member VP stated their future use “possibilities are endless”. Mr Feld is a savy, powerful, mega wealthy business man, not a suddenly transformed elephant welfare minded person. If one reads the article carefully, it is clear the door is open wide enough for a elephant to pass through as to what type venue or fashion the elephants may be used for in the future. After all, he also stated a good business “adapts”. That remains to be seen is what that means regarding the elephants. To conclude Ringling will eliminate elephant circus acts all together may not be what’s in store, the elephant acts just won’t TRAVEL. Hence the start of a few stationary elephant venue show places I wonder? After all, “the possibilities are endless”. Hmmmm!

    1. amanda_m says:

      I strongly agree with your statement, Dolores. There is no guarantee whatsoever that the elephants RB&BB owns will be retired appropriately. Frankly, knowing their reputation I dont think it is a given that RB&BB intention is honorable. Reputable sanctuaries should be injected into RB&BB plans.

  6. marge pertuit says:

    I m so glad that we are heading in the right direction. It is a start, but we must continue to fight for the rights of our exotic animals

  7. marge pertuit says:

    This is a start in the right direction.

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