10 Facts About Circus Animals

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Won't Use Elephants (Eventually)
Synchronizing elephants is no easy feat, and the circus industry has cut many corners ethics-wise over the years. Keystone-France/Getty Images

After Los Angeles and Oakland banned bullhooks in 2014, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus said they would no longer tour there. But after a collective shrug from the cities, a rather huge development took place in 2015: Feld Entertainment (the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus) decided to retire all their elephants by 2018 to a conservation center in Florida, effectively phasing out elephant performances in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus once and for all [source: Izadi].

Now let's note that Feld Entertainment wasn't about to say that they were admitting wrongdoing or bowing under pressure from animal rights activists. In fact, litigation had been ongoing in a veritable tug of war: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) had to pay Feld Entertainment $9.3 million after Feld sued and won after claiming ASPCA made an abuse of claim in an earlier lawsuit against them [source: Allen]. The bottom line? Elephant cruelty prevention had gotten messy on both sides, and Feld Entertainment said that it wanted to provide a resource for Asian elephant preservation by retiring the elephants by 2018 — leaving animal rights groups wondering why it would take three years to do so [source: Izadi].