“How does a business be successful?” asks Kenneth Feld, President and CEO of Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. “By adapting,” he says. Under constant pressure from the general public, animal rights activist groups, and “anti-elephant” ordinances from cities in which they wish to perform, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has made the decision to discontinue the use of elephants in their performances by the year of 2018.
The circus told the Associated Press that their decision is the result of “growing public concern about how the animals are treated.” However, Feld claims that his company is “not reacting to our critics,” but rather, “creating the greatest resource for the preservation of the Asian elephant.”
Because the show is most well-known for its large mammals, and an infamous company logo which features an elephant, executives of Feld Entertainment told the New York Times that the decision was “difficult and debated at length.”
Alana Feld, Executive Vice President of Feld Entertainment, says that over the years “there’s been somewhat of a mood shift among our customers. A lot of people aren’t comfortable with us touring with our elephants.” Perhaps the public’s concern is the result of a 2011 case when the company was fined $270,000 by the United States Department of Agriculture for violating the Animal Welfare Act several times between June 2007 and August 2011, according to the USDA.
Currently, Feld Entertainment owns 43 elephants. Of those elephants, 29 live at the company’s Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida, 1 is being loaned to a breeding program at the Fort Worth Zoo in Texas, and the remaining 13 will continue to put on performances over the course of the next three years until the circus’s elephant use is officially put to an end.
“This is the most significant change we have made since we founded the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation in 1995,” says Feld. “When we did so, we knew we would play a critical role in saving the endangered Asian elephant for future generations, given how few Asian elephants are left in the wild…This decision was not easy, but it is in the best interest of our company, our elephants and our customers.”