The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced Thursday it would stop using elephants in its acts by 2018.
The move demonstrates the impact of public attitudes about performing animals.
”There’s been somewhat of a mood shift among our consumers,” the company’s executive vice president, Alana Feld, told the New York Times. “A lot of people aren’t comfortable with us touring with our elephants.”
Elephants have also proved problematic for the Atlanta-based UniverSoul Circus. A trainer and a marketing executive at UniverSoul were charged with animal cruelty last month after a witness reported seeing the trainer insert a bullhook into an elephant’s mouth. Their trial is scheduled for April 24.
Ringling Brothers was the target of an unsuccessful 14-year lawsuit, brought by several animal rights groups, including the Humane Society of the United States. The trial was resolved last year when the animal rights groups were ordered to pay the circus $25 million in damages.
Ingrid E. Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said "if Ringling is really telling the truth about ending this horror, it will be a day to pop the champagne corks, and rejoice."