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Elephant Retirement

NEW YORK - JUNE 18: Elephants perform on opening night of the Coney Island Boom A Ring! presented by Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus June 18, 2009 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The famed circus is performing at the storied amusement mecca Coney Island for the first time ever this summer through September 7. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

For over 100 years the Ringling Brothers Circus has been a staple in American entertainment. Few images can compete with the timeless Americana of the traveling circus. This year, however, things are about to change for some of the star attractions and the circus may never be the same again.

Due to a myriad number of ongoing lawsuits and ever changing federal, state, and city laws it’s become too difficult and costly for the circus to keep using elephants in their shows. Organizations like PETA have crusaded long and hard to end elephant captivity and with public opinion on their side it was only a matter of time before one of their biggest targets (the Ringling Brothers Circus) was made to capitulate. All remaining eleven elephants will take their final bows from show business and retire to a sanctuary (Center for Elephant Conservation in Polk City Florida) to live out the rest of their days away from the hot lights, boxcars, and long hours of circus life.

No one can deny that Elephants are incredibly intelligent and emotionally aware animals. “Elephants express a wide variety of behaviors, including those associated with grief, learning, mimicry, play, altruism, use of tools, compassion, cooperation, self-awareness, memory, and communication. Further, evidence suggests elephants may understand pointing: the ability to nonverbally communicate an object by extending a finger, or equivalent. Such behaviors suggest that elephants are highly intelligent”. This makes the allegations of whippings, electric shocks, and bullhooks all the more troubling.

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Although they have come a long way since the early days.

Training starts young and can generously be called “intense”.

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Though intense is not the word I would use.

Like all performers, it takes years of training and hard work to earn a place in the spotlight.

 

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Unlike other performers though, these guys didn’t have much of a choice.

After years of show business the elephants often suffer from a number of medical issues including crippling arthritis.

 

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Did I forget to mention that this species of Elephant is highly endangered?

The simple truth is that times have changed. Modern sensibilities will not allow this kind of behavior towards these animals any longer. Elephant performances may be an iconic tradition but we as a nation have decided they’re inhumane and cruel.

For more information check out the video below:

 

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