Following calls from animal rights activists to end its use of elephants in performance, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey have discontinued the animals in all forthcoming circus shows. The move signals a final curtain to the circus' 145-year history of incorporating the giant mammals in productions throughout the United States.
Entertainment Weekly reports that remaining elephants used by the circus gave their final performance on Sunday night (May 1) in Providence, Rhode Island. Ringlin Bros. elephants will now be given a new home at the circus' elephant refuge in central Florida. "In total, there will be 40 elephants," at the facility, "representing the largest Asian elephant herd in the Western Hemisphere," the company said in a statement Monday.
Animal rights groups have long alleged that Ringling abuses its animals with its protocol for both performance, training and living conditions, and have taken the circus to court on multiple occasions. In 2012, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) was found guilty of falsely accusing Ringling of mistreating elephants, and the circus was awarded a $9.3 million settlement after being found innocent. PETA, too, has often rallied against Ringling, voicing calls for it to abandon its use of all animals, which include tigers, lions, horses, dogs and camels.
In 2011, Ringling paid a $275,000 fine to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for allegedly violating the animal welfare act. The circus was originally slated to phase out its use of elephants by 2018, but hastened the process, noting that it "shares a lifetime commitment to all of our elephants," and that the "the future of this species is in great hands.”