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Ringling Bros. to drop elephant acts, thanks in part to HBO documentary

An Apology To Elephants

Continuing a trend that began when Blackfish made everyone realize how fucked up Sea World is, Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey Circus announced today that it is phasing Asian elephants out of its traveling shows, with the extremely intelligent animals removed from the circus entirely by the year 2018.

Animal rights activists have been decrying animal circus acts as cruel for years, but pressure on the company really began to mount after HBO released the documentary An Apology To Elephants in 2013. Narrated by Lily Tomlin,the documentary highlights the important role elephants play in the Earth’s ecosystem, as well as how substandard living conditions and harsh training practices can drive performing elephants—currently believed to be equal to dolphins, whales, and primates in intelligence—to psychosis. In other words, it’s a real chuckle-fest.


The 13 elephants currently performing for Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey Circus will reportedly live out the rest of their lives at the company-owned Center for Elephant Conservation, a Florida facility currently housing more than 40 elephants. There, the elephants can remember their experiences in the circus, use tools, mourn their dead, mimic human language, and all the other cool stuff scientists have realized that they can do.

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