I emailed Ringling Bros in February concerning the welfare of their animals. This was their reply:
Thank you for writing the animal care experts at Ringling.com.
It is evident from your e-Mail that you have heard a wealth of
misinformation about the animal care here at Ringling Bros. and Barnum &
Bailey. Unfortunately, those who oppose performing animals for ideological
reasons often misrepresent the facts in an effort to win support for their
cause. We appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight.
Ringling Bros. has more than 134 years of experience working with animals
and more expertise in elephant care than anyone else in North America. Our
animals are an important and beloved part of our circus community, and their
care and well being are a commitment we take very seriously. The animal care
staff consists of animal experts who devote their lives to living, working
with and caring for animals. We deliver exemplary, hands-on care, to our
animals 365 days a year.
Only those animals with a suitable temperament and a natural predisposition
toward training are selected for performances.
We use operant conditioning as the basis for the training and handling of
the animals. More specifically, our training is based on constant contact,
daily routines and nurturing which builds a rapport between the animals and
the handlers based on trust and affection. Our expert handlers watch their
animals closely while they socialize and subsequently create routines based
on the moves they witness. They use voice recognition and rewards to
encourage the animals to learn a set routine. This process ensures that our
patrons have the opportunity to view our animals relaxed and displaying
their natural movements in an entertaining fashion.
The animals at Ringling Bros. are assured a lifetime of veterinary care,
nutritious meals, a clean and safe home, and a stable, stimulating,
rewarding environment. Day-in, day-out the animal trainers bathe, groom and
feed the animals-they play with them and reward them with treats and praise.
Ringling Bros. also employs an animal behaviorist who makes sure the animals
have a stimulating and enriching environment as well as the stimulation of
new surroundings and new things to challenge them.
For instance, an average day in the life of a Ringling Bros. elephant
includes feeding, training, rehearsal and play. For the most part, our
animals spend more than half of the day eating, sleeping and socializing
with other animals. The routines that amaze Ringling Bros. audiences' mimic
the behaviors of wild elephants, which stand on their hind legs to reach
tall branches, push down large trees with their trunks.
A comprehensive network of laws and regulations governs our animal care
activities, and we are proud of our excellent record in animal care.
Findings from more than 40 inspections conducted during the past two years
alone affirm our animal care procedures and policies and contradict the
activists' allegations. Most of these reviews were unannounced visits where
federal, state and local officials evaluated our entire animal facilities
and examined the animals thoroughly.
In fact, the State of California-The Resources Agency, Department of Fish
and Game completed an inspection of our operations in August 2002 and found
our "operation in compliance with the caging and care requirements of
section 671.4 of the California Code of Regulations for each animal listed
on our permit." In addition we were complimented on our operation and on the
excellent care and the handling our animal actors receive. The inspection
document further stated the our "operation should be the industry standard
so that the public can appreciate the dedication, training and resources
necessary to adequately support and exhibit these animals in the humane
manner they deserve."
The bottom line is animals are an important and beloved part of the Ringling
Bros. circus community. By showcasing animals in its performances, Ringling
Bros. creates entertaining and learning experiences for the audience because
it allows people to observe the unique partnership that develops between
animals and humans. Our performances promote an appreciation and
understanding of not only the trust between animals and humans in various
cultures, but also the need to protect animal species and wildlife resources
for the future. We believe Ringling Bros. provides children and adults the
opportunity to see and to learn about some of the world's most amazing
animals and to observe a positive example of the unique relationship that
develops between animals and humans when they live and work together in
close partnership. Judging from the feedback we receive from our millions of
patrons, exotic animals continue to be a unique and treasured part of the
circus experience. We are very proud of our record in animal welfare, and at
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®, sharing our world with animals is more
than a responsibility...it is our cherished way of life!
Thank you again for writing us because it is important to get the facts
before you make up your mind. We hope you will spend some time exploring
more of the truth about animal care at Ringling Bros at:http://www.ringling.com/animals/care/care.aspx
Ringling Bros. Animal Care