Well, we can all say goodbye to yet another American tradition—elephants at the circus. Thanks to the nonstop harassment of animal rights activists who tell lies and promote distortions about the treatment of animals used by Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus, the company has decided to retire it’s elephants to … wait for it … a 200-acre, state-of-the-art facility located in central Florida that is dedicated to the conservation, breeding and understanding of the Asian elephant.
According to the Center’s website, it even “hosts researchers, academicians and conservationists to create new dialogue focused around animal care, conservation and health, and the exchange of knowledge about the Asian elephant – both in the Western Hemisphere and in their range countries.”
Huh? But I thought those circus meanies hated elephants.
Feld Entertainment says the decision to take elephants out of the show is a response to changing consumer preferences, but let’s face it, they’re just tired of dealing with the constant threat of lawsuits filed by animal rights activists. These lawsuits, while unsuccessful, are costly and create tons of bad public attention. Facing this, is it any wonder they’ve decided it’s just better to move the elephants to this conservation center?
Of course, the activists are now claiming victory over this development but is this really a victory? Let’s look at a few underreported facts here:
First, does anyone ever hear about this conservation center? No. Because that’s a good news story that won’t sell. As my friend Cherylyn Harley LaBon admitted in her Huffington Post column, she didn’t know this center even existed:
I was pleasantly surprised to learn the 13 elephants in the traveling circus are heading to a 200-acre conservation facility in Florida, the Center for Elephant Conservation (CEC). Who knew the circus was in the business of animal conservation? But what a wonderful thing.
I cannot pretend to be a conservation expert, but a glance at Feld's CEC is impressive. They founded the Center in 1995 and it is home to the largest and self-sustaining herd of Asian elephants. Their program boasts the most successful breeding program in the Western Hemisphere. I thought the Giant Panda reproduction cycle was complicated, but I have since discovered that elephants have a longer gestation period than any other mammal with a gestation of almost 22 months. And since the Center's inception, 26 elephants have been born there!
Second, let’s hear the facts about these lawsuits. The lawsuits filed by these animal rights activists make the news. That’s for sure. But rarely does the fast moving news cycle allow for any follow-up on these lawsuits. What people don’t hear is that those lawsuits have consistently been found without merit. In fact, in 2014, the Humane Society and other animal rights groups paid a $15.75 million settlement to Feld as a result of a lawsuit filed by the animal rights groups that was found frivolous and without merit. Shortly after that settlement, another group—The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals—was forced to pay Feld $9.3 million to Feld because it made false claims against the company in U.S. district court.
No one is suggesting the ethical treatment of animals isn’t a worthy topic. It is. And I’m sure there are plenty of horrible cases of animal abuse that deserve the spotlight. But elephants performing in the circus simply isn’t one of them.
Despite this, the Debbie Downers have won another victory against good old-fashioned fun.