An 11 year campaign came to a screeching halt on June 21st when NYC lawmakers voted to ban the use of exotic animals in circuses. The bill, which has been championed by Council Member Rosie Mendez since 2006, passed with 43 votes. Only 6 Council Members voted against it.
NYC’s Public Advocate, who presided over the Council meeting when the vote took place, broke protocol by allowing animal rights activists in the Council chambers to break into applause when the vote count was announced, “Let it rip,” said Letitia James, who herself was a supporter of the ban.
Animal rights activists in NYC applaud the advocates and elected officials who led the fight to ban wild animals in circuses (from L to R: Activist John Phillips, Council Member Corey Johnson, Council Member Rosie Mendez, ADI’s Christina Scaringe, HSUS’ Joyce Friedman)
According to HSUS’ Wildlife Protection Specialist Joyce Friedman, NYC joins “over 125 municipalities and four states that have banned or restricted the use of animals in circuses.” Christina Scaringe, General Counsel of Animal Defenders International (ADI), added that 37 countries around the world have implemented a ban on exotic animals in circuses, with some of those countries also banning the use of domesticated animals.
In traveling circuses, wild animals are held captive for life in small cages and are beaten into submission with weapons
After the Council meeting, several elected officials bill joined activists on the steps of City Hall for an impromptu rally to celebrate the historic vote. NYC Council Member Corey Johnson, a co-sponsor of the bill, remarked on the historic significance of its passage: “We’re going to look back on this day and all of the hard work that has gone into it and see it as a seminal moment – – when the largest municipality in the country said, ‘Enough! This law is a step for a more just and humane New York City and society.”
Activists from as far as California and Nevada traveled to New York to say “Good Riddance” to “The Cruelest Show of Earth” during Ringling’s last-ever performance.
Organized by PETA, LION and CompassionWorks International, the final protest, which took place at the Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, was not only a celebration but also an opportunity to encourage Ringling fans to abstain from patronizing other traveling circuses that beat wild animals into submission.
Animal rights activists celebrate the last-ever performance of Ringling Bros.
PETA began protesting Ringling when the organization was formed in the early 1980s. Since then, the animal rights group has staged protests at thousands of performances around the country, at times following the circus from city to city in a “Ringling Beats Elephants” van.
PETA followed Ringling around the country in a van in an effort to educate patrons
As undercover videos of circus trainers terrorizing animals emerged, many local animal rights groups around the country began to protest the circus and lobby their lawmakers in support of restrictions on the use of animals in performances.
In recent years, several municipalities in the U.S. banned the use of bull hooks, the weapons used by “trainers” to beat elephants into submission. Without bull hooks, Ringling could not use elephants in their shows. These bans, coupled with increasing public discomfort about the use of elephants, triggered Ringling to remove them from the show starting in 2016. This victory, celebrated by activists worldwide, was overshadowed by an even bigger victory – Ringling’s announcement in 2017 that it was shutting down the circus altogether. A representative from the Circus Fans Association of America told TheirTurn that the Ringling decided to end its 146 year run because of a substantial drop in revenues following the removal of elephants. Animal rights groups say that ticket sales declined because of the public’s increasing discomfort with the use of any animals in circuses.
Elephant “trainer” with Ringling carries bull hooks to scare animals into submission
The 100+ activists at Ringling’s final performance were greeted with hostility by some patrons, as expected. Parents were the angriest, as they don’t want their children’s circus experience to be tainted by the presence of activists wielding “Ringling Beats Animals” posters. While some patrons gave protesters the middle finger or shouted “Snowflake” or “Go Trump” while driving past the protesters, most just laughed nervously.
Elected officials and animal advocates in NYC staged a rally at City Hall and testified at a public hearing in support of a bill to ban wild and exotic animals from circuses.
In 2016, Ringling Brothers eliminated elephant acts from its circus, but the company continues to use tigers, camels and other exotic animals. Other circuses that travel to New York, such as Universoul, continue to use elephants. Cole Bros., another company that used elephants in its circus, went out of business in 2016 due to diminished attendance and show cancellations in Long Island and New Jersey.
Elephants and tigers among the many animals beaten into submission by circus “trainers.”
At the public hearing, City Council Member Corey Johnson, a co-sponsor on the bill, said “We’re probably going to look back on this [wild animals in circuses] years from now and say, ‘Why were we comfortable with that?’ In the largest city in the United States, I think we need to set the tone and example for the rest of the country.”
NYC Council Member Corey Johnson testifies in support of bill to ban wild and exotic animals from circuses
Dozens of cities and countries around the world have banned the use of wild animals in circuses. Animal rights groups in the United States say they will continue to protest until all circuses retire all of their wild and exotic animals.
If you live in NYC, please ask your Council Member to co-sponsor Int. 1233 to ban wild & exotic animals from performances in NYC.
A slave is defined as “someone who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them.” Across the globe, wild animals are held captive in circuses and subjected to violent punishment in order to force them to perform for human entertainment. Their plight is chillingly similar to that of the victims of the African slave trade.
Like the victims of the African slave trade, circus animals are often kidnapped from their homes and held captive in chains and prison cages — when they’re not performing. Circus elephants, for instance, spend 97% of their lives shackled. One investigation showed that, for weeks at a time, UniverSoul Circus kept tigers in cages so small that they could not make “normal postural adjustments.” The confinement causes many animals to go insane.
Chains are used to restrain animals in circuses just as they were to restrain humans during the African slave trade.
Like the victims of the African slave trade, circus animals work out of fear of punishment. Tigers and lions are whipped; monkeys and camels are beaten with sticks; and elephants are stabbed with bullhooks, devices that resemble a fireplace poker. Fear is the only way to entice wild animals to perform unnatural – and often scary and painful – tricks in front of noisy crowds.
Like African slaves, circus animals are forced to work under threat of violent punishment.
The bullhook is a weapon used to beat and control elephants in circuses.
Like the victims of the victims of the African slave trade, circus animals often taken have their children taken from them. The kidnapped children are taught to fear humans at a very age. Baby elephants, for instance, are tied up; beaten with bullhooks; and shocked with police tasers. Young animals, especially lions and tigers, are often used for photo ops.
In circuses and slave auctions, babies are and were taken away from their mothers.
The plight of circus animals falls squarely into the definition of slavery.
To learn more about the plight of circus animals and what you can do to help them please visit Born Free USA.
When Ringling Bros. announced plans to eliminate its elephant act in 2018, the company stated it would retire the traveling herd to its Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida.
Animals are trained to perform tricks at a “conservation” center?
To the general public, the center sounds like an idyllic home for the elephants because “conservation” conjures up images of freedom, safety and care. But, for several reasons, Ringling’s facility is the wrong place to retire these elephants:
The “Conservation” Center is the training facility where Ringling “breaks” baby elephants. When babies destined for the circus are born at the center, Ringling trainers kidnap them from their mothers, chain them for up to 22 hours a day and beat them with weapons until they perform circus tricks on command. Ringling is therefore not retiring the elephants to a loving home; they are returning them to the people who broke them and stripped them of everything that makes life worth living. To the elephants, who have very long memories, the Conservation Center is a place that signifies pain, anguish, deprivation, domination, brutality and terror.
Ringling trainers tie down baby elephants and assault them with weapons to break them
Conservation Center employees carry bullhooks, weapons to control the elephants’ behavior. In its own promotional video spinning its training and breeding facility into a “conservation” center, Ringling employees can be seen carrying bullhooks. How can living in constant fear of assault and being surrounded by people who terrorized them constitute a humane retirement?
Employees carry elephant weapons at Ringling’s Center For Elephant Conservation
The Conservation Center is entirely inadequate. Ringling’s facility is closed to the public, and that is probably because the company doesn’t want visitors to see babies being broken and elephants living in small enclosures, often chained on two legs in a concrete barn.
Ringling’s facility is not – and can never be – a sanctuary for the elephants who were abused there
One woman who did manage to see the center posted this video, which shows an elephant swaying in her enclosure — a sign of boredom, frustration and/or grief.
When Ringling stops training elephants for the circus, the company will assuredly find ways to continue exploiting them for profit at its conservation center (after expanding the enclosures) – perhaps through selling tickets for visitors to view them in a zoo-like setting and/or to take elephant rides.
Ringling has always treated its animals like commodities. In fact, they plan to continue forcing the elephants to travel in box cars and perform in circuses until 2018. And they intend to continue using other wild animals in the circus indefinitely. The public should therefore have no reason to believe that, three years from now, Ringling’s owners will suddenly put the elephants’ interests ahead of their own.
In the wild, elephants don’t balance on stools and form “conga lines”
The elephants should be relocated to an accredited sanctuary and placed in the hands of caregivers, not trainers. The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee has stated it would welcome the Ringling elephants onto its 2,000 acre reserve.
The 2,000 acre Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee would rescue Ringling’s elephants (photo: The Elephant Sanctuary)
The fact that Ringling describes its training and breeding facility as a “conservation” center will be the subject of a future story.
Please sign the petition demanding that Ringling retires its elephants now — not in 2018. Ringling’s facility is not yet equipped to accommodate more elephants, so retiring them now would mean that they could be sent to an accredited sanctuary.