FILE - In this Thursday, March 19, 2015 file photo, elephants walk during a performance of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, in Washington. It was recently announced elephants would be eliminated from its circus performances by 2018. San Francisco is poised to ban performances using bears, lions, elephants and other wild animals, joining a few other places that have prohibited the use of exotic animals for entertainment. The ordinance, which is expected to get final approval from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Tuesday, April. 21, 2015 applies to circuses, backyard birthday parties and even filming for movies and television shows. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Be free, beauties!



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. 

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