Animal rights activists will be pleased to know that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is phasing out its century-old elephant act — but some argue that change isn’t coming fast enough.
In a move that parent company Feld Entertainment called “unprecedented,” the company announced in a press release that 13 elephants currently on tour will be sent to its Florida conservation center by 2018, where more than 40 elephants currently reside.
The New York Times reports that Feld Entertainment made the decision after facing lawsuits, increasingly tight legislation and complaints by animal rights activists over concerns about treatment of the animals. Feld’s executive vice president Alana Feld noted, “There’s been somewhat of a mood shift among our consumers,” adding, “A lot of people aren’t comfortable with us touring with our elephants.”
CEO Kenneth Feld suggested that the campaigns were an inefficient use of resources, saying, “All of the resources used to fight these things can be put towards the elephants.” However, he maintained that “we’re not reacting to our critics,” rather, “we’re creating the greatest resource for the preservation of the Asian elephant.”
PETA president Ingrid E. Newkirk welcomed the news, but remained critical. “We know extreme abuse to these majestic animals occurs every single day, so if Ringling is really telling the truth about ending this horror, it will be a day to pop the champagne corks, and rejoice,” she wrote in a statement. “Three years is too long for a mother elephant separated from her calf,” she continued, “too long for an animal who roams up to 30 miles a day in the wild to be kept in shackles. If the decision is serious, then the circus needs to do it now.”