A Victory for the Elephants, How About the Rest?

By Diane M. Sullivan, Esq., and Holly Vietzke, Esq.

The decision by Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus to cease using elephant in its shows beginning in 2018 is laudable, however long overdue it is. “We’re creating the greatest preservation of the Asian elephant,” explained Kenneth Feld, of Feld Enterprises, Inc., which owns the circus. But why stop at elephants? What about the tigers, zebras, llamas, horses, and goats? Don’t they also deserve relief from the inhumane and abusive treatment that comprises a life in the circus?

They do, and now is the time to fight for it. Despite his claim to the contrary (“We are not reacting to our critics”), Feld has admitted that with the number of regional bans on the use of elephants in circuses and legislation seeking to prohibit them in other cities, it is now too difficult and financially infeasible to continue using elephants. “All of the resources used to fight these things can be put toward the elephants,” he stated. So score one for the animal advocates: all of the protesting, lobbying, and grass roots efforts have paid off…in three years anyway. Our voices have made a difference, and we must continue to speak up.

Circus animals are subjected to a life of confinement. When they are not being asked to perform unnatural acts in front of strange, loud audiences, they are locked in cages and stowed on trains or travel trucks approximately 300 days per year, traveling through all degrees of temperature. One of our animal law cases[1] discusses the death of a lion in the travel car, whose temperature exceeded 100 degrees in the middle of July in the Mohave Desert. And when they are too old to perform, some of these animals are sold to hunting ranches, where their confinement results in certain death. Sadly, the life inside those barriers is preferable to the one in the circus.

[1] Hagan v. Feld Entertainment, Inc. D/B/A Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, 365 F. Supp. 2d 700 (2005).

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