POLK CITY, Fla. (MEDIA GENERAL) – PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is known for its circus protests. In fact, it proudly proclaims it has been battling with Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus for 35 years over its treatment of animals. So, one would think PETA would be thrilled that Ringling Bros. announced Thursday it will phase out the show’s elephant acts by 2018.
Executives from Feld Entertainment, Ringling’s parent company, told the Associated Press the decision came from growing public concern about how the animals are treated.
“There’s been somewhat of a mood shift among our consumers,” Alana Feld, the company’s executive vice president told the Associated Press. “A lot of people aren’t comfortable with us touring with our elephants.”
Immediately, animal rights groups began posting responses to the major announcement. PETA wrote, “If Ringling is really telling the truth about ending this horror, it will be a day to pop champagne corks, and rejoice.” However, the group went on to say it believes many of the elephants are already in pain and sick, and that waiting three years is too long. “If the decision is serious, then the circus needs to do it NOW.”
Animal Defenders International General Counsel Christina Scaringe said, “We are thrilled that America’s best known circus, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, will stop using elephants in its shows and we urge other circuses to follow suit.”
Feld owns 43 elephants, and 29 of the giant animals live at the company’s 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida. Thirteen animals will continue to tour with the circus before retiring to the center by 2018. One elephant is on a breeding loan to the Fort Worth Zoo.
Another reason for the decision, company President Kenneth Feld told the Associated Press, was that certain cities and counties have passed “anti-circus” and “anti-elephant” ordinances. The company’s three shows visit 115 cities throughout the year.
Feld owns the largest herd of Asian elephants in North America. It costs about $65,000 yearly to care for each elephant, and Kenneth Feld said the company would have to build new structures to house the retiring elephants at the center, located in between Orlando and Tampa.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.