The famed Ringling Bros. Circus company is due to close this May after 146 years of performances, according to a CNN report this morning.
Animal activists, including PETA and the Humane Society of the United States, have consistently protested against the abusive measures circus trainers employ to train animals. Elephants are chained, beaten, and pierced with electric prods for misbehaving. Monkeys are regularly drugged and even have their teeth removed in order to subdue them. Bears have their paws burned so they can walk on their hind legs. All of these animals are forced to give birth at unnaturally young ages. On top of all these exploitive measures, animals are deprived of food and water and forced to travel in restrictive cages upwards of 100 hours at a time during tours.
In fact, this treatment is so despicable that the Ringling Bros. company was fined $270,000 in 2011 for violating the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), although they did not openly admit to violating the law. This financial blow, combined with increased public awareness and operating expenses, most likely led to the company’s decline in ticket sales.
“It’s just not acceptable any longer to cart wild animals from city to city and have them perform silly yet coercive stunts,” said Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States on Sunday.
Although this decision is a huge celebratory cause for activists, there are nuances that the Ringling Bros. must address. For example, over 400 people will have to find work elsewhere. The company also has to figure out how they’re going to transfer these animals back to wildlife, since the majority of them have grown up in captivity and are permanently injured due to being exploited.
In the meantime, animal welfare activists around the world can celebrate this victory as a small step towards greater equity for animals.