New York City

Ringling Bros. to eliminate elephant performances

Early retirement for icon of ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’

March 5, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey announced on Thursday that they will be eliminating elephants from all circus performances by 2018. Shown: Elephants from the circus visited DUMBO prior to a performance at Barclays Center in 2013.  Photo by Rob Abruzzese
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Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey announced on Thursday that they will be eliminating elephants from all circus performances by 2018.

Under the plan, 13 Asian elephants currently traveling with the three Ringling Bros. circus units will be relocated to the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant for Conservation in Florida. There they will join the rest of the Ringling Bros. herd of more than 40 elephants.

Elephants have long symbolized “The Greatest Show on Earth.”

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“This is the most significant change we have made since we founded the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation in 1995,” Kenneth Feld, Chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros., said in a statement. “When we did so, we knew we would play a critical role in saving the endangered Asian elephant for future generations, given how few Asian elephants are left in the wild. Since then, we have had 26 elephant births.”

Feld said that no other institution “is doing more to save this species from extinction.”

Animal rights activists have complained for years about what they claimed was abuse of the elephants. Last May, however, the groups, including the Humane Society of the United States lost their legal battles against Feld Entertainment and paid out millions, ending the litigation.

Nicole Feld and Alana Feld, Ringling Bros. producers and executive VPs with Feld Entertainment, said as the circus evolves, “we can maintain our focus on elephant conservation while allowing our business to continue to meet shifting consumer preferences.”

The circus will continue to feature other animals including tigers, lions, horses, dogs and camels, Ringling said.

The elephants have long been a symbol of the circus and have been used to publicize its arrival. In 2013, Ringling Bros. paraded eight dancing Asian elephants through the streets of DUMBO in a spectacle watched by hundreds.

Then-Borough President Marty Markowitz declared it “Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Day.”

While school children declared the show “awesome,” about 30 members from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) were also on hand to protest.

On Thursday, Borough President Eric Adams had a slightly different take.

“I thank Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for their decision to phase out their elephant acts by 2018. This is a positive acknowledgment of the compassionate concerns that many supporters of animal rights, including myself, have expressed in recent years,” he said.

“I have met with leadership from Feld Entertainment, the circus’s parent company, on several occasions, including as recently as last week, to engage in a constructive dialogue about elephant welfare. In our conversations, I stressed the importance of evolving to meet the times, and I am confident that their customers in Brooklyn and across America will welcome this change,” Adams said.


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