In a surprise move, the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus have announced that they will retire all elephants by the year 2018.
Elephants have been a circus icon for over 100 years, but recent legislation and frequent litigation from animal rights activists has finally convinced the famous circus company to remove elephants from their act.
Ringling's parent company, Feld Entertainment, owns the 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation, wherein the elephants will live after their retirement. Feld hopes that their breeding efforts may save the Asian elephant species.
The Center for Elephant Conservation has been responsible for twenty-six elephant births. However, the use of “bullhooks” or “guides” and chains at the center is both common and disturbing.
Feld Entertainment has not stated whether the company will continue to use bullhooks, but a recent statement by Ringling's Director of Animal Stewardship Janice Aria suggests they will. Aria states that bullhooks are “the best method for working with, and caring for, elephants.”
According to Feld Entertainment representatives' own testimony, bullhook guides are used to strike elephants in sensitive areas in order to control their behavior, and tying them up is also used to “correct” them.
Other elephant refuges, like the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, use alternative methods to care for their elephants:
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