Ringling Bros.: Why we're good for elephants [Blowback]
Janice Aria, director of animal stewardship for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, responds to The Times' Dec. 2 editorial, "Ringling Bros., they're elephants, not clowns." If you would like to write a full-length response to a recent Times article, editorial or Op-Ed article, here are our FAQs and submission policy.
For more than 141 years, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has been showcasing the most amazing talent from around the world: clowns, jugglers, tightrope walkers and more can all be seen when "The Greatest Show On Earth" comes to town. Animals have always been an integral part of Ringling Bros. throughout the years, and they are consistently one of the main reasons families keep coming back, year after year.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey animals are inspected by animal welfare officials in nearly every city we visit. There were 45 inspections by the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- in addition to inspections by state and local governments -- from Jan. 4, 2007 to Aug. 25, 2011. This past summer, while in California, our circus had more than 80 inspections by federal, state and local authorities.
None of these inspections found any incidents of inappropriate use of the guide (or "bullhook"). The guide is a necessary tool in elephant husbandry, and it is accepted and used all over the world in elephant care. This tool also allows for the very best veterinary care. Animal-activist groups have distorted the recent USDA settlement agreement as an attempt to further their long-running crusade, bringing up the unfounded allegations of mistreatment by our handlers with a tool they have demonized.
Ringling Bros. resolved the disputed regulatory issues in the agreement with the USDA. We stand by our animal-care program and our people, and we do not admit any wrongdoing. Instead, this is a business decision to resolve our differences instead of engaging in costly and protracted litigation with the federal agency that holds our license to do business. This agreement demonstrates that there are already government regulations and laws in place to help ensure the humane treatment for all animals involved in public display.
Activist groups that distribute misleading information about animal care at Ringling Bros. will never be satisfied with animals being presented to the public, no matter how well they are cared for by Ringling Bros.
Anyone who comes to Ringling Bros. can see that the animals are healthy and thriving in their environment. The full-time Ringling Bros. staff of veterinarians (with specialties ranging from neo-natal to geriatric care) are a critical component of the healthcare plan for all the animals touring on our circus units and at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida. Moreover, zoos all over the country regularly call our veterinary team for help and advice on their own animals.
While it is true that some elephants in zoos and circuses, like some people, develop arthritis, it is also true that exercise and a physically active lifestyle is the best prescription, and that is what our elephants receive. It is among the reasons that circus elephants tend to live longer on average than their counterparts in zoos
At Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Bros., we are making a difference in the conservation of the endangered Asian elephant. We have donated more than $1.5 million to groups and projects to help conserve this magnificent animal. We are a founding member of the International Elephant Foundation; we consistently donate to research projects, including the Smithsonian Institution's study on the endotheliotropic herpes viruses; and we established the annual International Conference and Research on Tuberculosis in Elephants. We also support zoos and stationary institutions by providing suitable companion elephants to facilities whose elephant herds are diminishing in population, as well as helping researchers in range countries minimize elephant-human conflict
Everyone with Ringling Bros. has been and remains dedicated to two goals: providing for the care and well-being of Asian elephants and all of Ringling Bros.' animals, and producing the very best in live family entertainment that can only be found at "The Greatest Show On Earth." Our commitment to those two goals will never waiver.
-- Janice Aria
Photo: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus artists and elephants perform in New York in March 2010. Credit: Emmanuel Dunand / AFP/Getty Images