Every year since 1981, a parade of elephants has walked through the Midtown tunnel from Queens to Manhattan before slowly traversing 34th street and entering Madison Square Garden for the start of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus. It’s a spectacle that brings out a childlike sense of wonder in some and disgust at the mistreatment of innocent animals in others.
This year, for the first time, the show will happen not at MSG but at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, and some have wondered whether the elephant walk would happen at the new venue. In 2010, Atlantic Yards developer and minority nets owner Bruce Ratner claimed that it would, saying, “I can’t wait to see circus elephants marching down Flatbush Avenue and into the Barclays Center.”
ANIMAL spoke to representatives from the arena today, one of whom informed us that the elephant parade would not be happening this year. Another person we spoke to was unsure how and when the elephants would arrive, but believed they would come on trucks at either 5:30pm today or 6:30am tomorrow.
Representatives from FELD Entertainment, the company that owns Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, could not be reached for comment at press time.
Katie Arth, a campaigner with PETA, believes Ringling Brothers may be canceling the walk to avoid the public seeing the state of the animals. “We know Ringling Brothers has cancelled walks in other cities, most likely because the don’t want people to see the lameness of some of the elephants that are forced to perform,” she said, pointing to an incident in which Department of Health monitors spotted unhealthy-looking elephants walking to the circus in DC.
“Elephants are traveling for an average of 26 hours prior to arriving at the circus, with some in transit for as long as 100 hours,” she added.
PETA supporters will be participating in a large demonstration this Wednesday, March 20, to protest the circus’s opening night.