So, the high-performing elephants are going the way of the buffalo at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
That’s not the most catastrophic announcement of the day, but it certainly has drawn the attention of an adoring public. What’s behind the decision?
Parent company Feld Entertainment, of Polk City, Fla., says it is pulling the rug out from under the pachyderms because of public protest over how the circus elephants are treated. A video that apparently went viral on the Internet shows a trainer smacking some elephants with some kind of hard rod to effect a conditioned response developed during the elephants’ training. To be sure, that’s radical and unacceptable behavior.
The basis for the protests is valid. Elephants have both thick and thin skin — depending on the area of the animal’s anatomy. But more important is that their skin is so sensitive, they can feel a mosquito land on their exteriors.
The Ringling-Barnum & Bailey elephants won’t disappear right away. Circus owners said the big fellas will be phased out over the next three years. That’s plenty of time to retrain the trainers, threatening them with termination or a good beating with a hard rod if caught in the act of abusing the big creatures we love to watch. It’s the abusive trainers and any insensitive circus workers who ought to be shown the door, not the elephants.
After all, what’s a circus without the four-legged giants with two tails? To turn the elephants out to pasture is over-reaction, considering they have thrilled so many of us from center ring for more than a century. Their conspicuous disappearance will be a big disappointment to the ladies, the gentlemen and the children of all ages who love to watch the big-eared creatures perform.