San Francisco Bans Circus Elephants: A Tradition Is Dying

Tatiana Belovaistock

On Tuesday, the city of San Francisco’s Board of Governors unanimously approved a measure that prohibits performances of wild or exotic animals for entertainment, according to a report by Reuters. If the measure passes a final vote next week as anticipated, San Francisco will be the largest United States city to ban performing animal acts for public entertainment. Animal displays used for educational purposes at zoos and museums would be exempt.

As previously reported in the Inquisitr, Ringling Brothers has recently announced that it will retire its elephants from circus performing in 2018. Ringling’s decision is the most significant step forward in a lengthy effort by animal welfare advocates to liberate elephants from the constraints of life as circus performers. Investigations by the United States Department of Agriculture, the federal agency that is responsible for monitoring the well-being of performing animals under the Animal Welfare Act, have shown that circus elephants are chained for upwards of 23 hours per day, often lack required medical care and supervision, and appear to possess wounds caused by handlers’ use of bullhooks to control their movements, among other problems.

Although many people have fond childhood memories of watching elephants perform at the circus, animal welfare organizations have gathered information from experts in elephant behavior that indicates that circus elephants are suffering. Circus elephants are often observed swaying back and forth, an abnormal behavior not observed in wild elephants. Circus elephants have also been known to become out of control and cause damage to property around the circus grounds.

Experts who have studied elephants in natural settings have expressed concerns for the welfare of circus elephants, as well. Their research has shown that elephants are highly intelligent and have deep emotions. In the wild, female elephants will live together for their entire lives, helping each other raise and protect younger elephants. However, circus elephants are not able to develop or maintain this kind of relationship, as they are separated into smaller traveling units and can be sold and loaned to other circuses and zoos.

San Francisco’s decision to ban wild animals in entertainment is the most recent action by a city government to put an end to the tradition of going to the circus to see the elephants. Other states and municipalities are considering similar action, and on a federal level, the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act is currently pending in Congress.

It appears that circus elephants are going the way of the elephant man and the bearded lady.