The Humane Society of the United States, long a bitter adversary of Feld Entertainment and Ringling Bros., applauded the company for its decision to shut down the circus in May, ending 146 years of coercive, inhumane wild animal acts that were at the center of the show. The HSUS and other animal welfare groups have been united in opposing elephant, tiger, lion and other wild animal acts.
"Ringling Bros. has changed a great deal over a century and a half, but not fast enough," said Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO. "It's just not acceptable any longer to cart wild animals from city to city and have them perform silly yet coercive stunts. I know this is bittersweet for the Feld family, but I applaud their decision to move away from an institution grounded on inherently inhumane wild animal acts."
In 2015, Ringling announced that it would end its use of elephants, long a subject of intense controversy. Last year, California and Rhode Island banned the use of the bullhook (an inhumane device used to control and train elephants) while other local and state legislative efforts gathered momentum. The announcement applies to the use of lions, tigers, zebras and other wild animals—all of which the HSUS considers inappropriate for circus acts in the 21st century.
"Ringling's action is a signal to every other animal-based circus that their business model must change," added Pacelle. "Kids and other members of the public know too much about the backstory of misery, toil and coercive training to keep patronizing these businesses."
The HSUS urges Ringling Bros. to provide appropriate financing for lifetime care for all of the animals affected by its decision, in the most ethologically suitable environments available for them in their remaining years.