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Ringling Bros. to Phase Out Circus Elephants by 2018

Criticisms from animal rights activists and concerns for the elephants’ welfare have prompted the “Greatest Show on Earth” to retire its pachyderm performers in three years’ time.

If you thought old Republicans from New Jersey were the only elephants who retire to Florida, think again.

Ringling Brothers, the traveling circus that bills itself as “the Greatest Show on Earth,” has decided to retire its elephant acts by 2018, according to NPR. The remaining pachyderm performers will be moved to the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation, which opened in 1995 and is located in Polk City, Florida. Company executives cite several reasons for the big decision, ranging from “a mood shift” among customers to concerns for the lasting welfare of the animals. Scott Neuman of NPR suggests the aforementioned “mood shift” could stem from societal outrage in the wake of the 2013 documentary Blackfish, which shone a light on hardships faced by orcas at SeaWorld.

Animal rights activists including groups like the Humane Society have long antagonized Ringling Bros. for its use and alleged mistreatment of performing animals. The circus’ decision could be a watershed moment for similar efforts around the world. The way animal rights groups see it, if Ringling Bros. is willing to retire the animal performers who have starred in their shows for 150 years, who’s to say that SeaWorld won’t also eventually give in to pressure and phase out Shamu?

Read more at NPR.

Photo credit: Eky Studio / Shutterstock


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