News of Ringling Brothers’ plan to retire elephants could be a slippery slope

The news yesterday was excitingly hopeful. Ringling announced plans to retire its elephants this May rather than wait another year and a half as originally planned.

They are going to retire like everyone does – to Florida,” said Stephen Payne of parent company Feld Entertainment, ABC News reported. Payne said that the 11 elephants currently on tour will travel to roughly 14 more cities before May, at which time they will be transferred to the company’s 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida.

Ringling Bros Circus elephant act

Sounds good, right? But like everything else, you have to read everything – read the fine print, as it were.

And that fine print showed up this morning in a newspaper article.

Reported in the NY Times and an article by AP journalist Tamara Lush, Ringling Brothers has plans for these retired pachyderms, and they don’t include simply retiring to a sanctuary. Instead, like chimpanzees, beagles and other animals stuck in a lab somewhere, these magnificent creatures will become part of medical experiments at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Center for Elephant Conservation (CEC) in Polk City, Florida.

Elephants & Ringling Bros. CEC

Scientists at the CEC have been doing reproductive research for years on their elephants. But along the way, they’ve discovered something curious.

Apparently, elephants rarely get cancer. That has scientists wanting to know why and how this might be applied to humans. And so Ringling Bros. elephants are now part of scientific research that is hoped will shed some light on how humans can avoid the Big C.

You can watch a fascinating video on this here.

Elephants & cancer studies

But here’s the thing.

Elephant physiology, history and everything else is completely different than that of humans. Simple enough, isn’t it?

The real concern is: will these elephants continue to be bred for these scientific experiments? And will they primarily be used for these experiments or will they truly get to “retire” in peace? After all, so many lab animals are subjected to excruciating and torturous experiments. Will this be the fate of Field’s charges as well? Let’s hope not.

After all the documented instances of abuse they’ve suffered while in captivity, they and all other “wild animals” deserve so much better from us.



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