Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, owned by Feld Entertainment, announced that they will no longer include elephants in their shows as of 2018, despite having recently won a hard-fought battle against activists claiming their elephants were not properly handled by circus staff.

As reported by the Associated Press, Feld explained its decision was based on:

  • changing consumer concerns,
  • the adoption of regulations throughout the country to ban exhibits using elephants, and
  • ultimately, the ability to use the resources currently needed to fight legal battles to expand funding to the company’s Center for Elephant Conservation (the “Center”), where Feld houses and cares for “the largest herd of Asian elephants in North America.”

“It costs about $65,000 yearly to care for each elephant, and Kenneth Feld said the company would have to build new structures to house the retiring elephants at the center, located in between Orlando and Tampa on a rural, ranch-like property.”

While Feld’s decision is understandable, it will undoubtedly bolster the efforts of activists seeking the elimination of the use of:

  • marine mammals in exhibitions,
  • livestock for food and fiber,
  • horses and other animals in sports and entertainment,
  • purebred dogs as pets, and
  • animals in medical research.

Our understanding of animal and human health and behavior has been greatly advanced by our interaction with, and study of animals.  While studying species in their natural habitat adds important insights, advances in medicine and science which benefit both animals and people would have been hamstrung without the ability to work with and study animals in man-made environments.

As a veterinarian, I have been dedicated to the humane care of animals, no matter the species, or their location.  As an attorney, I remain dedicated to defending our ability to continue to own animals while providing for their humane care.

As for the elephants, since their numbers appear to be continuously dwindling in the wild, hopefully, as Feld indicated, they will allow the public access to the Center so we can continue to appreciate these amazing animals.  The scientists and veterinarians who have been studying the elephants at the Center, have already succeeded in efforts to preserve the species through artificial insemination, with the reported goal to “enhance genetic diversity and ensure a healthy Asian elephant population throughout the world.”