Elephants on Parade: Circuses To Retire Gentle Giants
Over 70 years after Dumbo terrified children everywhere, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus have decided to end the tours of circus elephants nationwide. Originally, CEO Kenneth Feld, who also runs Doodlebops Live!–a show that looks like a Terry Gilliam fever dream–had meant to phase out the peaceful pachyderms by 2018, but, spurred on by public interest, he announced today that the elephants would be free to roam come May.
It’s a big victory for animal activists, like jeweler Pamela Love, as well as for good ol’ common sense (and Bing Bong fanatics). From an early age, trained elephants are taught to fear and respect the bullhook, a combination nightstick and metallic hook. Known in Sanskrit as the ankusha, the tool has been used to tame elephants for millennia. But we don’t really use elephants to cross terrain anymore. Whether or not the metal prod is sharpened, the application of the bullhook can be cruel. From 1994 to 2015, 31 circus elephants died prematurely in the US. Elephants, with brains weighing over 10 pounds, display a wide-range of emotions–they nuzzle to show affection, they cry, they even grieve as a group for their dead.
Emulating presidential candidate Jeb Bush, the circus elephants will be retiring at a large ranch in Florida, taking leisurely strolls around the property and, occasionally, bathing. After movies like Blackfish and Food, Inc. helped awaken animal rights activism in the collective consciousness, it’s refreshing to see honest-to-goodness change. Kids can still see their floppy-eared friends in an open-air environment, and we can slowly dissolve the acid flashbacks “Pink Elephants on Parade” left us with. Truly, this is a moment of healing.
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Image via Disney.