Earlier this year, when the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus came to town, Seth Kubersky asked readers: Can we indulge in innocent enjoyment of the Greatest Show on Earth, or is it time to leave the past behind? Care of the animal performers who are part of most circus acts has increasingly come under criticism, and protests have become ubiquitous with the circus coming to town. Which is something that he says was palpable in the last Ringling show that came to Orlando:
When the elephants appear as the finale of Act One, you can instantly tell that controversy has impacted the presentation. We're now told that standing on their heads mimics natural hole-digging behavior, and the bullhook's use is explained. I appreciate the educational angle, but when I look into the eyes of a 58-year-old elephant, I can't honestly tell if she enjoys turning in circles for the clapping crowd.
Now Ringling has finally decided that it's time to phase out one of its star animal acts: the elephants. Yesterday, the circus, which is owned by Feld Entertainment based in Palmetto, Florida, announced that by 2018, its traveling shows will be elephant free. The 13 elephants that currently travel with Ringling Bros. will be retired for good. They'll be relocated to the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation, located in Polk City, where Ringling already has a herd of 40 retired elephants and calves.