Circus Puts Pachyderms Out to Pasture

Circus Puts Pachyderms Out to Pasture
Asian elephants have been imported to the USA for exhibit as curiosities since 1794, and menageries soon became part of American entertainment. Starting in the mid-nineteenth century, elephants were paraded from train yards to show sites, publicizing the traveling circus’ arrival in each city and town, and performing elephants became essential to circus entertainment.

Now Feld Entertainment has announced that the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus will phase out elephant acts by 2018. The remaining pachyderm performers will retire to Florida, to the Shalom Sunset Leisure Community the Center for Elephant Conservation in Polk City.

While it did pay a USDA fine, the historic circus organization successfully defended itself against broad accusations of mistreating the huge beasts, but the corporation has decided that, given mounting public concern and new animal welfare regulations in a number of cities, it’s time to put the pachyderms out to pasture.

Asian elephants are joining the unemployed back home, too. For centuries they’ve been used in logging operations, but most of the teak forests are gone. Ironically, many survivors have joined the entertainment business, performing for tourists and parading in traditional festival ceremonies and wedding processions.


“The long battle to remove elephants from the Ringling Bros. circus,” Elahe Izadi, Washington Post

“Circus elephants will no longer sadden audiences at Ringling Bros. shows,” Hanna Kozlowska, Quartz

“Ringling Bros. to retire its traveling elephants; some circus fans upset,” Amy Hubbard and Brittny Mejia, Los Angeles Times

“Does a circus without elephants have a future?” Todd Leopold, CNN


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Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

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