In March 2015, Feld Entertainment, the parent company to traveling shows like Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Disney on Ice!, announced that they would stop the use of elephants in their shows by 2018. That gave them a 3-year window to comfortably transition the 13 elephants that were still a part of their shows to a conservation center. The announcement followed the many years of criticism and allegations of animal abuse. Eventually, the final performances were moved up about 18 months and the elephants took the stage for the last time on May 1, 2016.
This was a big day for animal rights activists around the nation. After decades of protests and lawsuits, the public opinion on animals in captivity has shifted dramatically and has finally pushed the longest-running circus to retire for good. Unfortunately, the long-awaited celebration of freedom was met by moans and groans of traditional circus-goers. One of the most common complaints was that of parents claiming that their children would be deprived of the life-changing experience of seeing an elephant. Apparently, watching them perform in circuses was an essential part of developing an appreciation for the animal kingdom.
According to a study done by Scientific American, elephants display a sense of self-awareness and cognition that is similar to some apes and dolphins. They are one of the few species that are able to learn how to use tools and are thought to have a very good memory. Circuses don’t display these talents in a practical way at all. True, it is impressive that elephants are able to learn tricks and perform them night after night for years. However, their natural abilities aren’t being displayed in the circus ring. The use of elephants in circuses usually consists of dressing them up as showgirls and forcing them to perform tricks they’ve learned through abusive training techniques. They don’t seem magnificent when they’re forced to amuse and entertain a crowd.
This doesn’t seem like a healthy appreciation to instill in children. Shouldn’t we take them instead to an elephant sanctuary where they can learn more about the animal while observing them in a more natural habitat? Shouldn’t we show kids what elephants are like when they interact with others of their species, whether they’re just waving their trunks at each other or muttering a greeting noise as they walk around? Even if a family doesn’t have access to a sanctuary nearby, modern technology has introduced an era of documentaries and shows like “Planet Earth” and incredible, high-definition wildlife photography.
I think children should be taught from a young age that animals are to be respected. Humans should be kind to animals. God gave us dominion over every species, but that doesn’t mean we should exploit them for entertainment and money. Circuses teach these impressionable minds that animals were put on earth for our use and amusement, and that’s simply not true. The decision made by Feld Entertainment was the right choice to make to further the education and appreciation for wildlife for the generations to come. It doesn’t stop with the elephants. Animal rights activists won’t rest until the rest of the animal kingdom is no longer suffering for human entertainment. Let’s join in and show our respect for these God-given creatures and stop any future enslavement.