Circus animal acts have long treaded — and often overstepped — delicate ethical lines, but a recent development shows that the industry is catching up with the times. Speaking to the Associated Press, the iconic Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus confirmed retiring its touring elephants in May, fulfilling its promise to end all elephant acts a year and a half earlier than previously planned.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, along with other prominent companies that incorporated animal acts, came under scrutiny by many activists for using wild animals in their acts. As public concern mounted for circus animals, Ringling Bros. announced last May that it would retire its herd of elephants by 2018. According to the AP, Feld Entertainment — Ringling Bros.' parent company — said that once planning began for the phase out, it realized it could do so much sooner than anticipated. All elephants will be retired to its 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida.
Alana Feld, Ringling's executive vice president and show producer — whose family owns Feld Entertainment — told AP that the retired elephants will be part of cancer research that could lead to progress on finding a cure or prevention for cancer in humans.
The world-famous circus company featured elephant acts as part of its shows for well over a century. Feld Entertainment has disputed allegations of animal cruelty, though their trainers and handlers continued to use bullhooks on the elephants.
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While circuses once offered the chance to see wild beasts tamed by humans, that kind of "entertainment" thankfully no longer holds the same attraction for many people.
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