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Barnum & Bailey Officially Retires Circus Elephants

11 elephants will be transitioned to a conservation center in Florida for retirement—and, sadly, cancer research.

Captive elephants used in Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus performed for the last time on Sunday in Providence, RI, ending a 145-year-old tradition. The circus company announced early last year that, following mounting pressure from a public showing increasing concern for animal welfare, it would eliminate live elephants from its shows, originally reporting a 2018 deadline before moving it up to spring of 2016. That day has come, as all Ringling Bros. pachyderms will be transitioned to permanent retirement to the 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida, also owned by Ringling Bros. While critics and animal-rights groups applaud the company’s decision to end the centuries-long practice of cruel confinement for entertainment purposes, concerns have arisen about the mammals’ post-retirement life. At the circus company’s conservation center, elephants will be used as a part of human cancer research, and use of bullhooks and electric prods are still commonplace.

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